Russ Parsons: The California Cook

Russ Parsons: The California Cook

Russ Parsons: The California Cook


The canned catch of the day: Sardines

6:01 PM EST, February 21, 2014

The canned catch of the day: Sardines

In this age of fresh and local, canned foods are so far out of fashion that it sometimes seems as if they hide their heads when you walk past them in the grocery store. In some cases, this is valid: Who still buys canned peas or asparagus? But in others, it's nothing but shortsighted snobbery on our part. What is more delicious than a really good canned sardine?

 Broccoli, cauliflower deserve the soft touch

7:44 PM EST, February 7, 2014

Broccoli, cauliflower deserve the soft touch

Anyone who can turn on an oven knows the difference between broccoli and cauliflower, right? One is green and shaped like a tree and the other is white and looks more like a brain. Well, it turns out it's a little trickier than that. In fact, these two heady members of the brassica family are a lot more closely related than might be apparent.

C'mon, give dried fruit a chance

January 25, 2014

C'mon, give dried fruit a chance

I knew dried fruit had an image problem, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten.

Seven steps to becoming a better cook

3:18 PM EST, January 10, 2014

Seven steps to becoming a better cook

It happens every year about this time. Well stuffed from great holiday feasts, full of the kind of hopeful ambition that a new calendar brings, millions of people resolve that this year, finally, is going to be the one when they learn to cook better.

You say chilaquiles, I say migas. Either way, it's a tradition

December 14, 2013

You say chilaquiles, I say migas. Either way, it's a tradition

Christmas breakfasts are meals of tradition in my family. Dinner, the rest of them pretty much let me play around however I want. But breakfast has to follow a certain script. Still, there are traditions, and then there are traditions.

The California Cook: A school of anchovies

June 8, 2013

The California Cook: A school of anchovies

Once many years ago I came across a fish vendor at the farmers market with a whole tray full of beautiful fresh anchovies. On a sudden impulse, I bought them all. Real anchovies — the ones that have been packed in salt to last — are an essential flavoring, the garlic of the sea.

The California Cook: Glazing, what good vegetables deserve

May 4, 2013

The California Cook: Glazing, what good vegetables deserve

So many home cooks are obsessed with making dishes just like the professionals do. They buy hand-forged Japanese chefs knives, seek out $50 bottles of olive oil and spend hours preparing elaborately composed dishes from "The French Laundry Cookbook" or "Eleven Madison Park."

The California Cook: From dregs to delicious

April 13, 2013

The California Cook: From dregs to delicious

Here in California we love to brag about our abundance of wonderful seasonal ingredients and how that makes good food easy. That's more or less true, but I have to confess that I've also always had a sneaking admiration for those cooks who can whip up something from nothing.

Peel away the complications of the perfect hard-boiled egg

March 30, 2013

Peel away the complications of the perfect hard-boiled egg

Sometimes it's the simplest things that are the most confounding. Last year, right before Easter, I blogged about how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg. Basic? Yes. Popular? Very. This seemingly simple task received tens of thousands of page views.

The California Cook: Citrus in salads, while you wait for tomatoes

March 16, 2013

The California Cook: Citrus in salads, while you wait for tomatoes

The cook's year can be divided in two: tomato and not-tomato. But sometimes, even the best-intentioned, most locavore-crazy among us so crave a sweet, tart bite in our salads that we break down and grab one of those cottony out-of-season tennis balls. You've done it too. Don't try to deny it.

The California Cook: Let artichoke possibilities flower

March 2, 2013

The California Cook: Let artichoke possibilities flower

I was giving one of my periodic talks at local libraries the other day, and someone asked if I knew a good way to prepare artichokes. It stopped me cold. "A" good way? Only one? Which one? Do you want artichokes by themselves? Do you want artichokes as an ingredient? Do you want them cooked or do you want them raw? Too many choices.

The California Cook: Easier polenta, inspired weekends

February 16, 2013

The California Cook: Easier polenta, inspired weekends

In most cases, I'm a terribly traditional cook. If there is a longer, slower, more manual way to do something, almost invariably I will prefer it. But even I push tradition aside when I find an alternative that is not only easier but also tastes as good or better.

The California Cook: Elevating the lowly lentil

February 2, 2013

The California Cook: Elevating the lowly lentil

As culinary fashion continues to wind inexorably lower on the luxury scale — from tournedos to beef cheeks, from foie gras to pork belly — it was probably inevitable that we would eventually come to lentils.

The California Cook: Basic dishes a couple can build on

January 12, 2013

The California Cook: Basic dishes a couple can build on

Meghan and Carter are getting married. Like so many friends of my daughter, they are bright, funny and, sometimes, almost preternaturally serious. A couple of weeks ago, they asked my wife if we would talk to them about how to stay married — and about how to cook.

The California Cook: Dungeness crab purist gives grilling it a go

December 29, 2012

The California Cook: Dungeness crab purist gives grilling it a go

If you ever needed a reminder of how much good there is in the world — and these days, who doesn't? — just cook a Dungeness crab. It is so easy to prepare; the meat is so sweet and tender; it is so nearly perfect just as it comes in its original wrapper. Surely, some greater power must love us mightily to give us anything that delivers such pleasure and demands so little.

The California Cook: There's oatmeal, and then there's oatmeal

November 24, 2012

The California Cook: There's oatmeal, and then there's oatmeal

Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way, maybe we can talk about something that is really important: oatmeal.

The California Cook: Curious about Mom's Epicurious recipe

November 10, 2012

The California Cook: Curious about Mom's Epicurious recipe

My mom has a recipe on Epicurious. At first I found that amusing. Epicurious, after all, is the holy grail of recipe websites, the collected works of some of the best food writers in the country. And, to put it most kindly, my mom was not a gifted cook. At least not by the definition we most usually apply today.

The California Cook: After 30 years, basic training in rice

October 27, 2012

The California Cook: After 30 years, basic training in rice

I've been cooking rice for more than 30 years and just now discovered I've been doing it all wrong.

The California Cook: Green chile enchantment

September 1, 2012

The California Cook: Green chile enchantment

At Ventura's Arroyo Verde Park on Sunday, if you squinted really, really hard, you could almost believe you were in the mountains of New Mexico — the steep, brush-covered hillsides, the pine trees and, most important, the smell of roasting green chiles hanging in the air.

The California Cook: Zucchini is a versatile star of summer

August 18, 2012

The California Cook: Zucchini is a versatile star of summer

Tomatoes are summer's glamour crop, round, red and ripe. But though zucchini will never get as many magazine covers, real cooks know you can't beat it for versatility. If you've got a perfectly ripened backyard tomato, there are only a few things you should do with it (yes, admittedly, all of them are delicious). But if you've got a bag of zucchini, well, the sky is the limit. Here, when you include the three accompanying recipes, are a dozen quick ideas.

Melons play more than sweet melodies

August 4, 2012

Melons play more than sweet melodies

My dad has never been much of a food guy. I still remember his go-to comfort dish when I was a kid was something he called "bread soup," which, if I recall correctly, consisted of torn-up white bread soaked in milk. I guess growing up in North Dakota will do that to you.

'The Art of Cooking With Vegetables' by Alain Passard is a keeper

July 7, 2012

'The Art of Cooking With Vegetables' by Alain Passard is a keeper

In a world overstuffed with weighty, glossy celebrity chef cookbooks, it would be easy to overlook Alain Passard's newly translated "The Art of Cooking With Vegetables." But it would be a mistake.

The California Cook: Cracking the code of panna cotta

June 16, 2012

The California Cook: Cracking the code of panna cotta

I've spent a good chunk of the last two weeks surrounded by spreadsheets, crumpled paper packets, cartons of dairy products and dirty ramekins. Josef Centeno has a lot to answer for.

The California Cook: Two cookies that go well with fruit

May 26, 2012

The California Cook: Two cookies that go well with fruit

Strolling the Santa Monica Saturday farmers market the other day, thinking about dinner. Five pounds of that thumb-thick jumbo asparagus from Zuckerman Farms? Of course! I already had carrots and favas from my garden. I'd ordered a leg of lamb. But what's for dessert? Almond torte maybe? Lemon curd tart?

Cooking hard-boiled eggs, the right way

April 7, 2012

Cooking hard-boiled eggs, the right way

Every year around this time millions of eggs are hard-boiled, artistically decorated and then thrown into the garbage. Frankly, that's probably just as well. Because most hard-boiled eggs are pretty terrible. The whites are rubbery, the yolks are pale and mealy and, even worse, surrounded by that sulfur-green ring of shame.

The California Cook: Getting creative with citrus

February 2, 2012

The California Cook: Getting creative with citrus

I'm writing this column having just spent an hour with our local fruit gleaner picking tangelos from my tree. We must have pulled at least 40 pounds. Earlier in the day, I'd picked an additional three dozen pieces of fruit for recipe testing. And the danged tree still looks like it hasn't been touched.

The California Cook: Kale in a salad? Yes

March 10, 2012

The California Cook: Kale in a salad? Yes

Kale is about as unlikely a food star as you can imagine. It's tough and fibrous. Bite a piece of raw kale and you'll practically end up with splinters between your teeth. Nevertheless, kale has become a green of the moment because, given a little special care, it actually can be made not only edible but delicious.

California Cook: Pancakes made from ground oatmeal, wild rice

February 23, 2012

California Cook: Pancakes made from ground oatmeal, wild rice

When cooks travel, they inevitably bring back recipes as souvenirs. A trip to central Italy might mean a wonderfully simple braise of fennel in olive oil. Go to southwest France and come back with pork confit. Visit Tokyo and you find a twist on the savory custard chawan mushi. When I hit the road, I usually seem to come back with pancakes.

The California Cook: Cookbooks that bring comfort

January 12, 2012

The California Cook: Cookbooks that bring comfort

At first glance, the story in the local paper seemed to have been written for me: "Decorating With Books." My house is swamped with cookbooks, they're stacked on just about every horizontal surface and, yes, some are even arranged on shelves. So I thought it might be a kind of a "When life gives you lemons" thing — maybe this was going to become a trendy new style in home décor?

California Cook: Finally — it's bean season

October 27, 2011

California Cook: Finally — it's bean season

Some people mark the start of fall with an apple pie. Others start breaking out the big reds from their wine cellars. Me? I'm a bean boy.

The California Cook: Chapter and verse on better cooking

October 13, 2011

The California Cook: Chapter and verse on better cooking

Here's the deal: You know a lot about food. You've seen all the shows; you've read all the books. On Chowhound you're a god. You love Vinny and Jon and Lindy and Grundy, and you always — always — get your reservation at LudoBites. But when it comes to cooking, well, there's a little problem.

The California Cook: A bruschetta bar: bread, toppings, eat

September 15, 2011

The California Cook: A bruschetta bar: bread, toppings, eat

A dreary November day in Umbria. On the shores of Lake Trasimeno, the holiday boats are pulled up and covered. We're visiting the frantoio of one of my favorite olive oil producers, Alfredo Mancianti, as he grinds a mound of purple-black olives into paste beneath an old stone wheel. He pops a couple of slices of bread into a beat-up electric toaster oven, rubs them lightly with just a touch of garlic, then spoons over a little golden green oil that has floated up from the crushed olives. A sprinkle of salt and he's done.

Grain salad? Simply grand — really

August 4, 2011

Grain salad? Simply grand — really

Confession time here: For years I avoided cooking with whole grains. There was just such a tinge of sacrifice I associated with them. They seemed like food for penance, not pleasure. "Eat them, they're good for you."

The California Cook: Salmon make a welcome return

July 7, 2011

The California Cook: Salmon make a welcome return

When you reconnect with an old friend you haven't seen in a long time, it's only natural that you want to make the occasion kind of special. Maybe have them for dinner. In this case, literally. After a long three-year dry spell, California's salmon are back — well, at least a few of them are. So the big question now is: How to cook them?

The California Cook: Breaking the vegetable rut

June 9, 2011

The California Cook: Breaking the vegetable rut

It occurred to me as I was pulling a pan of roasted potatoes out of the oven for what was probably the third time in as many weeks — I was getting in a rut.

The California Cook: Mighty, mighty bread crumbs

May 19, 2011

The California Cook: Mighty, mighty bread crumbs

I've just discovered the magic of fresh bread crumbs. You might say it's about time, after 30 years of cooking. But I would remind you that I said the "magic" of fresh bread crumbs, not the "utility."

The California Cook: Stuffed leg of lamb — it's worth the effort

April 21, 2011

The California Cook: Stuffed leg of lamb — it's worth the effort

I'm a high-payback kind of cook. What I mean by that is that any effort I expend in the kitchen, I expect to have repaid several times over on the plate.

The California Cook: Scrambled eggs: the sunny side of dinner

March 31, 2011

The California Cook: Scrambled eggs: the sunny side of dinner

I've always loved Robert Frost's line about home being the place where, "when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Perhaps I'm putting an overly optimistic reading on it, but the idea that even on our coldest, darkest nights, there is always a place with a warm light in the window is reassuring. That's kind of the way I feel about having eggs in the refrigerator.

The California Cook: Seasonal vegetable stew is easy, delicious

March 10, 2011

The California Cook: Seasonal vegetable stew is easy, delicious

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I'd just gotten home from the farmers market with, as usual, several bags of vegetables and no firm idea of what I was going to fix for dinner. So I did what I usually do in that situation — started leafing through cookbooks.

The California Cook: The recipe for a great cioppino? Your imagination.

February 17, 2011

The California Cook: The recipe for a great cioppino? Your imagination.

I don't think I've ever written about cioppino without getting into an argument. That's probably as it should be.

The California Cook: <i>Goug&#232;res, </i>ready in a flash<i> </i>

December 23, 2010

The California Cook: Gougères, ready in a flash

As a cook, I am prone to enthusiasms and sometimes, perhaps more often than occasionally, they can be a bit excessive. I readily admit that. But, please, trust me on this one: Frozen gougères are the best thing I've discovered this year. No, really.

The California Cook: Our best turkey tweak yet

November 18, 2010

The California Cook: Our best turkey tweak yet

For something that is the centerpiece of almost every Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey gets surprisingly little attention. At least from most normal people. They tend to stuff it, roast it and forget it. And then they complain about how boring turkey is for another year.

The California Cook: Homemade ricotta -- it's easier, and better, than you think

September 30, 2010

The California Cook: Homemade ricotta -- it's easier, and better, than you think

When it comes to most things around the house, I'm about the most unhandy guy you've ever seen. I can't hang a picture straight. But when it comes to cooking, I go a little do-it-yourself crazy. The last couple of weeks I've been making my own ricotta. Before you dismiss this as just another wacky fad, trust me — you've got to give it a try.

California Cook: Making jam in small batches (with big pleasure)

August 5, 2010

California Cook: Making jam in small batches (with big pleasure)

And so now I'm reading that jam-making has become a favored pastime of the culinary adventurers. That's great — there are few things that make breakfast sweeter than spooning homemade preserves onto a piece of toast. But I can't help wondering how long this boom will last once we get into the really thick heat of summer. Standing and stirring a big pot of boiling fruit will take the starch out of even the most enthusiastic cook.

The California Cook: An author's instructive fishing expedition

July 22, 2010

The California Cook: An author's instructive fishing expedition

It's taken a while, but you think you've finally gotten a grasp on the issues related to where most of your food comes from. You've successfully parsed the gray areas among local, seasonal, organic, sustainable, no-spray and conventional. You know your carbon footprint from your food miles, and you shop at a farmers market when you're not getting deliveries from your CSA.

The California Cook: How to grill the perfect steak

July 1, 2010

The California Cook: How to grill the perfect steak

Ah, the first warm days of summer, when some mysterious force compels even the most hapless cooks to start a fire and burn some meat. Walking around my neighborhood last weekend, the smell of flaming beef fat was everywhere.

Breakfast as holiday, and Dad's in charge

June 17, 2010

Breakfast as holiday, and Dad's in charge

What is it about cooking breakfast that makes me feel so much like a dad?

The California Cook: Quick and delicious quesadillas

June 3, 2010

The California Cook: Quick and delicious quesadillas

In the beginning, there was grilled cheese, and it was good. How could it not be — creamy melted cheese, bread crisped in butter? And then, of course, came the panini, once a simple Italian snack bar staple, turned seemingly ubiquitous. Now it looks like it may be the quesadilla's turn. And, really, the only thing to be said is: It's about time.

The California Cook: For small farmers, thinking outside the markets

April 29, 2010

The California Cook: For small farmers, thinking outside the markets

People can talk all they want about the important restaurants and the famous chefs that have gotten so much attention over the last 30 years, but for me the biggest change in that time has been the introduction of farmers markets.

Asparagus is a rite of spring

April 1, 2010

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Asparagus is a rite of spring

I'm wary of people who dig too deep for food metaphors, particularly when they involve religion, but if ever there were a case for a perfect pairing of produce and season, it would be asparagus and Easter.

In SoCal restaurants, a new passion for the whole pig

March 4, 2010

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

In SoCal restaurants, a new passion for the whole pig

It's a different kind of cooking class Sasha Kanno and a half-dozen other students are taking this sunny Saturday morning in Long Beach. Standing around a portable worktable wheeled into a darkened nightclub, they are watching intently as Paul Buchanan, chef of Primal Alchemy catering company, goes to work. In front of him is a whole pig. It's the size of a large dog and, after being cleaned and shaved, almost startlingly naked-looking. When Buchanan reaches for the hacksaw, rather than recoil, the students crowd in closer.

Easy polenta that doesn't skimp on flavor

February 18, 2010

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Easy polenta that doesn't skimp on flavor

In Italy's Piedmont region, where polenta may be better loved than anywhere else on Earth, the cornmeal mush is a food of the fall. When the air turns crisp with the first frost and people await the arrival of snow, housewives labor over their cooking pots, stirring, stirring as coarse meal slurried in water gradually thickens and becomes sticky and delicious. To serve, it's poured out onto a wooden board in a rich golden puddle like a harvest moon.

Rise of the modern romaine empire

January 27, 2010

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Rise of the modern romaine empire

A lot of times when food writers praise an old-fashioned ingredient such as romaine lettuce, they do it with a nod and a wink and more than a hint of condescension, like fashion critics chortling when a Parisian couture house sends its models out dressed in gingham and lace -- "Oh, how very droll!"

The facts about food and farming

January 6, 2010

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

The facts about food and farming

One of the more pleasing developments of the last decade has been the long-overdue beginning of a national conversation about food -- not just the arcane techniques used to prepare it and the luxurious restaurants in which it is served, but, much more important, how it is grown and produced.

Vegetables, the overlooked pleasures of a Christmas feast

December 23, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Vegetables, the overlooked pleasures of a Christmas feast

The big bang captures too much of our attention at Christmas. As kids (and maybe even later), we immediately go for the biggest packages under the tree, ignoring the more apparently modest stockings by the fireplace. The adult equivalent of that comes at the table, where we'll plan for weeks the massive roast that will be the centerpiece of Christmas dinner, the spectacular desserts that will cap it, or the fabulous wines that will make everything flow, and then wake up that morning thinking, "Oh shoot, maybe we ought to have a vegetable too."

Suggestions for the cook on your Christmas list

December 2, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Suggestions for the cook on your Christmas list

One thing about having a hobby like cooking is that people tend to think they know just what to get you for Christmas. Of course, unless they're cooks themselves, they're almost always wrong.

A more flavorful dry-brined turkey

4:14 PM EDT, May 9, 2013

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

A more flavorful dry-brined turkey

 

Stop and smell the ragu

October 21, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Stop and smell the ragu

Sometimes, listening to the pundits and ponderers, I get the feeling that cooking is my duty. It's good for the environment; it's good for my health; it's good for society; it's good for my family; it's good for the small farmers and food producers who depend on my business.

30 days of ripe tomatoes

September 9, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

30 days of ripe tomatoes

Summer always comes late to Southern California, but that seemed to be particularly true this year, as the cloudy gray days of June gloom stretched well into August for many areas. There was a good side, to be sure, but what we gained by not having to turn on the air conditioner was offset by the sorry state of our tomatoes.

Julie, Julia and me: Now it can be told

August 12, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Julie, Julia and me: Now it can be told

At a certain point in the wonderful new movie "Julie & Julia," there is a plot twist so shocking the audience gasps. Julia Child does something that seems so totally out of character that even on the way out, people were still shaking their heads. "How could she?" Well, that's one mystery I can solve. I was right there in the middle of it.

'Organic' debate goes on, naturally

July 29, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

'Organic' debate goes on, naturally

When I wrote a column recently about my questions about organic produce, I expected that I'd get a lot of mail. Especially after I started with the statement: "I don't believe in organics."

'Organic' label doesn't guarantee quality or taste

July 1, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

'Organic' label doesn't guarantee quality or taste

I don't believe in organic. There, I've said it and I feel better. It's something that's been on my mind for years.

Smart steak cuts for lean times

June 17, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Smart steak cuts for lean times

In the old days, say about this time last year, it wasn't so hard to throw a bang-up backyard barbecue: You just picked up some nice, thick 28-day dry-aged prime New York strip steaks, lighted a fire, grilled to medium rare and then made an extended curtain call, trying to appear humble as your guests stomped and cheered.

Chef memoirs: What hath Anthony Bourdain wrought?

June 3, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Chef memoirs: What hath Anthony Bourdain wrought?

Anthony Bourdain didn't invent the chef memoir, but he revolutionized it. And judging by the latest crop of books, I'd say he has a lot to answer for.

How to cook with farmers market produce

May 20, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

How to cook with farmers market produce

Go to a farmers market and your mind begins to race. Fava beans? What can I do with them? What about the asparagus? And look at those artichokes! Strawberries, mmmm. There are so many terrific ingredients just begging for you to buy them at this time of year that it can seem impossible to decide what to cook.

A short path to shortcake nirvana

April 29, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

A short path to shortcake nirvana

Many years ago, when I was younger and even more foolish than today, I took it upon myself to perfect the shortcake. I spent a week going through a dozen or so recipes from my favorite writers, cooking them, plotting the ingredients on a spreadsheet and then testing different combinations until I came up with the shortcake of my dreams.

Schnitzel's delicious simplicity

April 15, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Schnitzel's delicious simplicity

A friend and I were talking the other day about -- brace yourself -- what we were going to make for dinner. I said, "Nothing special, just some schnitzel." Her eyes got big and she said almost in a whisper: "I love schnitzel." We then spent five minutes reviewing our favorite schnitzel variations.

April 1, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

For one Greek American family, the hunt for greens is deeply rooted

These days, when Alexandra Panousis takes her girls out to cut weeds for dinner, she stays in the car, directing the action from the front seat of a new Jaguar. Not those, she tells her daughter, Elaine Panousis. You want the type with the yellow flowers. Get the ones with the thinnest stems and the finest leaves, she tells her granddaughter, Alexia Haidos. And when you clean them, bend the stems so they snap at the most tender part.

A quick fix makes greens in spring soup sing

March 4, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

A quick fix makes greens in spring soup sing

"It seemed like a good idea at the time" may well be the sorriest phrase in the English language and, perhaps, the most common. I know I contributed at least a couple of dozen repetitions all by myself the other night.

A splash of seasoning can be better than a shake

February 18, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

A splash of seasoning can be better than a shake

When most cooks read "season to taste," they automatically reach for the salt shaker. That's not a bad start: A judicious sprinkling with salt will awaken many a dull dish. But if you stop there, many times you'll be missing a key ingredient. Because just as a little salt unlocks flavor, so can a few drops of acidity.

February 4, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

The refrigerator personality test

I figured it was probably time to clean out my refrigerator when, digging around for a jar of jam, I found a roll of film. A roll of film! Remember those? How long it had been there, I don't know. I not only have a digital camera, I'm on my second one.

Slow cook onions, and the results are delicious

January 21, 2009

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Slow cook onions, and the results are delicious

The daughter met me at the back door: "What is this stuff?" she asked. It was Monday night, our regular date for her to come over and wash her clothes and then eat dinner and watch "Dexter" with me (nothing like laundry and a TiVo-ed serial killer for father-daughter bonding).

Once-exotic mushrooms -- king trumpets, maitake and shimeji -- get ready to rise on Southern California turf

October 1, 2008

CALIFORNIA COOK

Once-exotic mushrooms -- king trumpets, maitake and shimeji -- get ready to rise on Southern California turf

KING trumpets that have a texture almost as firm and meaty as young porcini; shimejishimeji that have a flavor that is wonderfully nutty; hen of the woods with a taste as earthy as their name. If you still think the cutting edge in grocery store mushrooms is enoki, shiitake and portobello, you've got some very pleasant surprises coming.

August 15, 2007

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Summertime, and the cooking is languid

Walk into a really hopping tapas bar in Spain or a swanky little osteria in Italy on a summer evening, and right at the front door you're likely to be confronted with a long table full of bowls of vegetables. At first glance, you might think this is just one more sign that the end of the world is near: a salad bar in Europe?

August 6, 2008

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Conserving locally caught tuna, Italian style

Improbable as it may have seemed a few years ago, canned tuna is one of the hottest ingredients around today. Good quality stuff, of course, not lunchbox fare. Imported from Spain or Italy, it can sell for as much as $50 a pound. And if it's ventresca, the richest meat from the belly of the tuna, prices can go even higher.

August 1, 2007

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Gone fishing? Get grilling

Summer twilight, the day's bright hot colors fade into shades of gray as a cooling breeze blows in from the sea. There's fish fresh from the grill, the skin crisp and nearly blackened, the flesh moist and sweet and gently perfumed by smoke. A drizzle of very good olive oil, a splash of lemon, a sprinkling of sea salt and you're ready to eat.

Pickles add punch to summertime meals

July 23, 2008

CALIFORNIA COOK

Pickles add punch to summertime meals

WHERE have all the pickles gone?

Simplicity's the secret for perfect grilling

June 25, 2008

CALIFORNIA COOK

Simplicity's the secret for perfect grilling

They seem to be everywhere I look these days. Every time I turn around, there's another one of those gleaming, stainless steel gas grills. At my hardware store, of course, but they're even in the center aisle of my grocery store. And as if some higher barbecue power were deliberately taunting me, I think for the last two weeks every other pickup truck I've been stuck behind in traffic has had one of those big boys strapped down in back. It seems like you can't really call yourself a cook anymore unless you've spent a couple of grand on a grill.

April 9, 2008

CALIFORNIA COOK

The sweet side of rhubarb

WE PUT IN A NEW front yard a couple of weeks ago, complete with drought-tolerant plantings, decomposed granite walkways and a "water feature" (apparently, nobody says "fountain" anymore). Of course, there's an edible component: four raised vegetable beds for growing tomatoes, squash, melons and greens, as well as two trees -- a Fuyu persimmon and a Panachée fig.

Ready to get fresh? Time to flirt with spring soups

February 27, 2008

THE CALIFORNIA COOK

Ready to get fresh? Time to flirt with spring soups

A vivid emerald bisque with a texture so luscious you'd never guess it was made without a drop of cream. A chunky chowder rich with the earthy flavor of freshly dug potatoes and the pungent sweetness of green garlic. A fragrant shrimp broth enlivened by artichokes and tender gnocchi perfumed with fresh spring herbs.

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