It just keeps getting better. My Caesar salad that is. Recipe to follow…

August 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

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September Scallops

August 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Whenever my lovely niece Johnna asks me for a recipe, I hop to it for a few reasons. First because she is one of my favorite people on Earth and she would be yours, too, if you had the good fortune of knowing her. Second, because the lovely Johnna has a lovely little family that includes a Hungry Husband, three and a half year-old Harper, and 14 month old Walker, that she very ambitiously tries to cook for, and I’d do anything I could to help. The third reason, which is related to the second, is that I love to be needed. So the other night when Johnna saw a picture of a scallop dish I’d made for dinner and asked me for the recipe, well, this is me, hopping to it.

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I cooked these scallops in Lake Placid where I am staying with my friend, Sara Foster. It was one of those inspirational collaborations that started with, “Let’s cook the scallops while they’re fresh,” (she’d brought them in a cooler from CT the day before after a particularly meat-heavy week); and “What else do we have to go with them?” and, “I remember this delicious scallop recipe Jonathan Waxman gave me for my New York book where he tossed the scallops with a quick pesto…” (I was referring to a book, beautifully shot by Quentin Bacon, that I have just learned you can get on Amazon.com for one cent. Yes: a penny.) And, cooking together while listening to Van Morrison, using what we could find from our farmers market outings and an overstuffed summer fridge, we came up with something so unexpected and delicious that afterwards, as we watched the Blue Moon come up over the Adirondacks, Sara said, “I don’t cook like that with anyone. We should open a restaurant together.” I doubt that’s going to happen, but I’m sure hope there will be more inspired meals like this one.

September Scallops
Although these scallops were invented in August, I call them September Scallops because the dish is made up of ingredients at that great intersection between summer and fall, when there are still great tomatoes to be found but ingredients like cabbage and kale are also there to remind you that this particular party is almost over.
Serves 4

4 garlic cloves
Kosher salt
A big handful of fresh, summer basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
2 or 3 strips of bacon (preferably thick-cut), thinly sliced
1 small head of cabbage (or half of a regular head) and 1 bunch Tuscan kale (or just kale, or just cabbage)
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
Half of a lemon for juicing

Smash the garlic cloves with the side of a large knife and sprinkle them with salt. Roughly chop the garlic, then put the basil leaves on top of the garlic and continue to chop until the garlic and basil together. (The idea is to make a quick, rough pesto. The salt helps the garlic break down and also keeps it from sticking to the knife.) Scoop them into a bowl and stir in a tablespoon of the best olive oil you have. (You can also do this the French and Italian ways–in a mortar and pestle, which is where the word “pesto” got its name.)

Quick and easy pesto.

Quick and easy “pesto.”

Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan, add the bacon, and cook it over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, kale, and/or radicchio, season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes until they’re wilted. (How long you sauté your greens is entirely dependent on how wilted you want them. If you were using kale and/or radicchio, you could skip cooking them altogether.) Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute just to warm them through. Turn off the heat, add the pesto and toss gently to combine.

Meanwhile, heat a second pan of olive oil over medium-high heat until it’s almost smoking. Season the scallops lightly with salt. Dip one scallop into the pan as if you were dipping your toe in a swimming pool to take the temperature. If the oil doesn’t make a sizzling noise when you introduce the scallop, take it out and let the pan heat up a bit more. Cook the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes per side, until they are a rich brown color. Turn off the heat and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over them.  Pile the vegetables on a platter, nestle the scallops in with the vegetables, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over them, and dig in.

This is the blue moon, looking exceedingly yellow.

This is the blue moon, looking exceedingly yellow.

Remembering a Very Happy Mother’s Day…

May 12, 2013 § 6 Comments

My mother is impossible to buy gifts for. Last night to dinner, I wore a scarf I gave her one year for Christmas. “You obviously liked it. You’ll wear it more than I would. You keep it.” Another year I bought her nice hand cream. The woman loves rubbing cream into her hands. A year later I saw the tube sitting on her bathroom counter, untouched. “Don’t you like it?” I asked. “I love it. I just don’t want to use it up.” I bought her another one so she’d know there was plenty of hand cream in her future. She kept that in her car console, also untouched. Her standard line regarding gifts has always been, “I can afford to buy myself anything you can afford to buy me. Make me something instead.” And so I decided to make her this online album. We’ve spent the last two mother’s days together at my friend Andre’s home in Venice, California. Andre is a landscape designer, floral designer, and artist. His garden, which I call Andre’s World, is a work of art, and one of my favorite places on the planet to spend an afternoon. So until I can afford to buy you something she can’t buy yourself, Happy Mother’s Day!

Portrait of me and my mother, Phyllis, in Andre's World.

Portrait of me and my mother, Phyllis, in Andre’s World. Rufus: “Are you my mother”

In Andre's World, everything is just so.

In Andre’s World, everything is just so.

My mother and Andre have a special bond. She thinks everything he does is perfect. Right now she is admiring the way the gravel is arranged.

My mother and Andre have a special bond. She thinks everything he does is perfect. Right now she is probably admiring the way the gravel is arranged. “That Andre!” she exclaims every time sees something creative that he has done, like… everything that he does.

Andre's sister, a mother, too, arrives bearintg gifts. I love all the bright baloon-like colors.

Andre’s sister, Anita, arrives bearing gifts. I love all the bright balloon-like colors.

Anita and her son, Aaron. Notice the JACK art piece in the background. Andre made that to honor his father Dr. (something) "Jack" Jackson out of used coffee cups, mostly from Intelligentsia.

Anita and her son, Aaron. Notice the JACK art piece in the background. Andre made that out of used coffee cups, mostly from Intelligentsia, to honor his late father, Dr. Jack Jackson.

My mother and her favorite, least demanding, and least expensive child, Willie.

My mother and her favorite, least demanding, and least expensive child, Willie.

Anita clearly able to resist Willie's begging.
Anita doesn’t seem to have a hard time resisting Willie’s begging.
Andre's mother looking at his inspiration board. No pinterest here, but real live push-pins.

Andre’s mother looking at his inspiration board. No pinterest here, but real live push-pins. I feel honored to be included on this board.

A bulletin board in Andre's studio displaying objects of nature, found in nature.

A bulletin board in Andre’s studio (not to be confused with his “painting studio” displaying objects of nature, found in nature.

Andre sets the table.

Andre sets the table. “That Andre!

Andre's lovely mother, Doris, seems happy to carve a ham, even on "her" day.

Andre’s lovely mother, Doris, seems happy to carve a ham, even on “her” day.

Mother and daughter, Anita and Doris in Andre's chic black kitchen.

Mother and daughter, Anita and Doris in Andre’s chic black kitchen.

Phyllis sneaks into the painting studio.

Phyllis sneaks into the painting studio.

My mother sneaks into Andre's painting studio, a separate little room off his studio, which is separate from the main house.

Andre’s painting studio is a separate little light-filled room in the middle of his garden, separate from the studio, which is separate from the main house.

Phyllis sneaks into the painting studio! Clearly she wants this painting. Maybe next mother's day!

Clearly she wants this painting. Maybe next mother’s day!

God is in the details.

God is in the details.

Andre gets creative with seating alternatives.

Andre gets creative with seating alternatives.

Such a pretty table. The table itself Andre had made out of a jacuzzi he dismantled. You can see the holes where the jets were. That Andre!

Such a pretty table. The table itself Andre had made out of a jacuzzi he dismantled. You can see the holes where the jets were. That Andre!

Andre had to get creative about seating. Two others are seated on logs.

Lunch. Andre had to get really creative with the seating.

Rufus awaiting opportunities under the table.

Rufus awaiting opportunities under the table.

Andre bought these lovely porcelain tea cups in four shades of green at a store on Abbot Kinney.

Andre bought these lovely porcelain tea cups in four shades of green at a store on Abbot Kinney.

Mother-daughter, mother-son portrait. Rufus couldn't quite get the hanf of the mirror concept.

Mother-daughter, mother-son portrait. Rufus couldn’t quite get the hanf of the mirror concept.

I fell asleep on the couch under a potted olive tree. Photo by Who Knows?

I fell asleep on the couch in the garden under a potted olive tree. Photo by Who Knows?

Andre gave one to each of the ladies, even those of us who are only dog moms.

Andre gave one to each of the ladies, even those of us who are only dog moms. Happy Mother’s Day!

Guac and Salsa… It Must Be Superbowl Sunday.

February 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

Every year when on Superbowl Sunday I think of a new way to recycle my guacamole recipe, so today I’ve decided to tell you about when Dario Cecchini, the famous Tuscan butcher, came to town—and by “town,” I mean Los Angeles. “What do you do when you have a butcher over for dinner?” asked Nancy Silverton, who was hosting a party in Dario’s honor.

Dario Cecchini Party at Nancy Silverton's

Me, Nancy, and Dario’s wife Kim. (Photo by Anne Fishbein.)

You invite the only other butchers you happen to know, such as Jim from Huntington Meats, seen here inspecting the goods. (Or is he simply eating?)

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You invite all Italian-speakers living in the vicinity, such as Rufus, seen here with fellow Italian-speaker Gino Angelini, who is inspecting a sign, written in Italian, that Rufus wears around his neck.

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(Photo by Anne Fishbein.)

And you serve meat.

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For the feast, two smokin’, bbq lovin’, ass kicking chefs Chris Feldmeier (Osteria Mozza) and Erik Black (Spice Table) spent days in order to show Dario how we do it in America.

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This Mexican did the only thing she knows to do in such a situation. She made guacamole.

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I used a whole case of avocados. It was the biggest batch of guacamole my kitchen had ever seen!

Here it is with that requisite of any meat eating feast: loads of red wine.

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The sign Rufus wore, featured in both the English and Italian languages, instructed guests not to feed him.

Dario Cecchini Party at Nancy Silverton's

As you might notice, Gino made some corrections to the sign. (Photo by Anne Fishbein.)

“Thankfully,” he says. “Nobody pays attention to anything my mom says.”
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“My name is Rufus. Please don’t feed me.” And other things Rufus would never say…

Although I can’t give you the recipe for that succulent sausage pictured above, I can give you recipes for what I think are the best red and green salsas you’ll ever taste–unless you go to Loteria! Grill and eat Jimmy Shaw’s chipotle salsa, which is, I hate to admit, un poquito better than mine. I’m still working on getting that one. Maybe next year. Jimmy? Are you listening or is Rufus right again?

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Guac, salsa, and Joe B’s wine. Sounds like a party.

Smoky Tomato Salsa

Makes 2 cups

1 pound roma tomatoes, charred on the grill

2 yellow onions, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill

4 garlic cloves, browned in their skins on grill

1 tablespoon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons pureed chipotle in adobo

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

2 to 3 teaspoons salt

Puree the tomatoes (including juices), onions, and garlic in a food processor. Add the chipotle puree, chipotle power, and salt and stir to combine.

Charred Green Chile Salsa

Makes 1½ cups

4 garlic cloves (skins on) browned on the grill

1 pound  husked tomatillos, charred on the grill

2 serrano chilies, charred on the grill, seeds removed

1 poblano chile, charred on the grill, peeled and seeded

1 yellow onion, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill

A handful of fresh cilantro

Juice of 2 limes

2 to 3 tablespoons salt

Water

Remove the skins from the garlic and puree the ingredients in a food processor to coarse puree, scraping down the sides of the food processor from time to time for even pureeing. Add water if necessary to make a loose salsa consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice or salt.

Are Those Cookies Home(land) Made?

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dearest friends and fans,

Please welcome back my weblog with this special feature by rising star and son of esteemed late journalist (and someone I was proud to call a friend), Morty Goldstein. –CC

(Editor’s Note – On Sunday, Nov. 25th, 2012, Carolina (aka “Carolynn”) Carreño brought a batch of cookies to a home in Los Angeles where a small group of people were gathering to watch the newest episode of the Showtime program “Homeland”. The following is a authorized reprint of the review of those cookies by Morton Goldstein, Jr. as it appeared in the Times.)

COOKIES FOR HOMELAND
By Morton Goldstein, Jr.
Times Staff Intern

“Get these damn cookies out of my house! If you don’t take them, I’m going to eat them all.” – Michelle Rivera , owner of Chateau Marmutt, upon seeing a box of Carolina Carreño’s Chocolate Chip (“chunk”) cookies in her dining room after watching a recent episode of “Homeland” with five friends.

I love Carolina’s cookies. That’s the only reason I invite her over to watch Homeland. Homeland without Carolina’s cookies just wouldn’t be the same.” —Suzanne Tracht, chef/owner of Los Angeles’ acclaimed Jar restaurant.

“People think I come Suzanne’s to watch “Homeland.” No way! That show is stupid. Besides, I have no idea what Carrie sees in Brody. The reason I come over is to have Carolina’s cookies. Her cookies and a good Brunello. Now that’s a match!” —Nancy Silverton, acclaimed baker, red wine lover, and chocolate chip cookie aficionado

Carolynn Carreño, have you eaten your own new batch of chocolate chip cookies in Los Angeles, California? Have you pulled open a box of them at either Nancy Silverton’s or Suzanne Tracht’s home kitchen and picked out an actual cookie? Did you eat the cookie? Did it live up to your expectations?

Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the box and had to choose between that mind-boggling, vast selection of cookie option? Nuts? Or No Nuts? Did you think “Wow, this is going to take some time to decide? Nuts? Or No Nuts? Nuts? Or No Nuts? Nuts? Or No Nuts?”

The perfect cookie?

When you stated on Facebook on Monday Nov.26, 2012 that “I think I may have perfected the chocolate chunk cookie yesterday,” did you think that your 600 plus Facebook “friends” would seriously believe that the chocolate chunk cookie had, at long last, actually been perfected? Did you envision people in their backyards calling out to neighbors, “She did it! Carolynnn finally perfected the cookie of our dreams! The long wait is finally over!” Didn’t you think you had to back it up? Or did you think that, like Mitt Romney, you could make a bold statement without any back up? Without a taste test? Without some independent verification? What’s next, Miss Carreñño? Are you post that you are going to fix the economy, too? Are you going to state on Facebook that fighting has ceased in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and East St. Louis, Ill.? And do you think we will all just believe you on that, too?

When you called the cookies “chocolate chunk” did you ever stop to realize that chunks of chocolate, when subjected to a heated oven, actually melt into small masses more resembling globs than “chunks”? Did you, Miss Careñõ, stop and think that a food product, be it a cookie or a stalk of Chino Farms celery, that was called a “chunk” would, when bite into, require a little extra teeth torque than a “non-chunk” related food?

When you took the extraordinary time and effort to cleverly call your cookies “Nuts” or “No Nuts,” did it ever cross your mind to identify the particular nuts involved? Or were you so busy “perfecting” the cookie that you felt that was unnecessary? Beneath you? Did you know that many people, while liking some nuts, can’t stand others? Or did you lump all the questionable nut people into one “let them eat nuts? group” Or was it that you wanted potential cookie eaters to ask you “What kind of nuts?” so you could blather on more about your “perfected” cookies.

Nuts or no nuts? This is the question.

Did you think that the cookie masters of the past would be offended by you, a half-Mexican, perfecting an all-American treat that has been around since there were chips? Did the thought of upsetting Gaston Lenotre, Betty Crocker, Jacques Torres, Sara Lee, Nancy Silverton or even my old neighbors Julia Millholland and Marie Fredrickson, even cross your mind? Or does “perfection” come at the cost of human decency?

And when you have a second Miss Carrreñño, what happened to the idea of milk or even coffee that cookies scream out for? Did you assume that whoever you deemed worthy of your treats would have a beverage on hand to accompany them? Or did you think your cookies so good that tap water, would be the ideal pairing?

Still life of cookie. With milk.

And when you stated on Facebook about your perfection, did it cross your mind that these cookies were, at that very moment, being heralded as better than what is considered (by my dysfunctional family) to be the Alexander the Great of cookies, those chocolate chip cookies that were devoured one summer day in Panicale, Umbria? Did you realized that those particular cookies had reached such a storied level of endearment that saying something was better than those cookies was akin to questioning the Left Arm of Sandy Koufax?

The legendary cookie of the summer of 2008.

Umbria has not seen a cookie like it–before or since.

Wait! Hold on! You made those cookies, too, didn’t you? Those cookies in Italy that Ms. Silverton may or may not have passed off as her own? Is it possible you are on to something? Did you know that this very morning, three days after you baked the latest batch, I ate two? And that they were, they were… well, they were delicious? Though those “perfected” cookies might not get to enjoy the status of the now legendary cookies enjoyed in far away Umbria, is it possible they are, in fact, the best cookies to be had in our own Homeland?

Heirloom Quality

May 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

Where once Mother’s Day was only about my mother, these days when that Sunday in May rolls around, I think of all my friends and relatives who have become mothers and are doing such a wonderful, creative, committed job of it. I spent yesterday with my mami at my friend Andre’s, with his mother and other mothers in his life.

It goes by so fast, they all say. And yes, it seems like just yesterday I was sitting with my sister on a stoop in Tijuana while our mother, wearing a smocked yellow mini-dress, smoked a Salem menthol and drank a screwdriver from a turquoise stemmed margarita glass…

They remind me of the glasses Andre served yesterday. I sure wish she’d saved those glasses. (Not to mention the dress!) But the next best thing. As we speak, she’s off at Ikea to buy me these, which André had at his house yesterday.

Andre is one of those talents who can make even Ikea stuff look special. See?

I sure wish my mom had saved those glasses. (Not to mention the dress!) But at least she’s trying to make up for her mistakes.  As we speak, she’s off to Ikea, picking up some replacements… Moms.

Not Just Dreaming…

April 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

Maru's sushi at Chino's Mochi Tsuki. It's a private event, but Taka Sushi is not!

All this talk about a guy named Jiro and sushi got me thinking it’s time to post this story I wrote in the LA Times. My editor at the time, Leslie Brenner, came up with the idea, which was way before it’s time. Every similar story I have seen since pales–not for the writing. (Not my best lede!) But because Leslie had a great idea about what people really needed and wanted to know about eating sushi, even if they didn’t know they wanted to know, which is: how am I supposed to do it?

The story came about at a lunch–baby vegetables hidden under salad greens at Patina, if memory serves me—as I told her over the course of a casual conversation, about how I’d been eating around with my Japanese friend, Hiroshi. I met Hirsoshi through the Chino family of Chino farms in San Diego. When I came to Los Angeles from New York, from what I can guess the Chinos assigned him to be not just my hair stylist, but my friend. Every Friday night Hiroshi would take me out for sushi, and sometimes on Saturdays, to Japantown for a steam bath followed by shabu-shabu. “Means splish-splash!” he told me. “Because that’s what you do with the meat.” But it was at the Friday night sushi dinners that I got my real education.

Sadly Nobu (not that Nobu, another, better Nobu), the inspiration for the story, left the sushi bar where he was then. He is now looking to open his own thing but he’s been saying that for awhile. He needs a Bill Chait to help him along. Or maybe Bill Chait. In the meantime, I recently asked Hiroshi where he goes for sushi, so that I could go there for sushi. “Nowhere. I don’t eat sushi right now except when I go to Japan.”

As for me? I have the luxury of having a great sushi experience with Maru, the sushi chef at Taka Sushi in downtown San Diego, who I have gotten to know as he provides a sushi bar at the Chino’s annual Mochi Tsuki, or New Year’s celebration. Last time I took my one and a half sisters: my whole sister Christy, and my half-sister, Iridia. We ate at the sushi bar, of course, and I told them how it was done and they were nice enough not to throw their chopsticks at me.

“The best way is to let the sushi chef decide,” I said. “Are you up for that?”

Iridia was up for anything.

“Okay,” Christy said warily. She’s the sort of person who takes flies out of the house instead of killing them. “Just as long as nothing comes while it’s still alive,” Which of course, ruled out the crabs.. You gotta read the story… Here.)

"No lives animals for dinner. Is that too much to ask?"

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    Radicchio salad with mustard vinaigrette: simple, seasonal, delicious. #salad #radicchio #saladporn #eatseasonally #colorisflavor Sunset in San Diego. #sandiego #sunset Back to the same ol' thing but the same ol' thing ain't bad. #carrenoplaystennis #labradoodles #dogsofinstagram @everybodylovesrufus So pretty you'd almost never know I am among a rare breed of people who dislike French macaroons. #macaroons #frenchmacaroons foodporn Love the colors of these market vegetables in #Milan. Lucky for me I can get same or better at @chinofarms! #farmersmarket #summervegetables #latergram My old friend Andre standing in front of his next project on Inglewood, CA. Anyone else I'd think they were nuts, but he is a visionary. Can't wait to see it. #andresworld #inglewood #losangeles Mini-landscape inside architectural pottery. #andresworld Obsessed with these roasted white peppers at the taqueria near my tennis courts. Or: not in Italy anymore. #mexicanfood #foodporn #jalapenos chilies #taqueria Left this loveliness before dawn cracked. And yes, I listened to Morning Has Broken as I pulled out of town. Arrivaderci, Italia! You were a blast. #panicale #umbria #sunrise #italia #carrenoitalia2014
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