A passion for food + fashion

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Oscars: The Good, The Bad and the Nicole Kidman

In Fashion, Media on February 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

BEST DRESSED: Gwyneth Paltrow. TheFoodinsita.com is typically a Gwyneth-free zone, but let’s give credit where credit is due. This platinum Calvin Klein Collection column sheath was smoking hot.

RISING STAR: Hailee Steinfeld was princess perfect in a sweet Marchesa ballerina pink dress.

GRANDE DAME: Oh my god—Helen Mirren in Vivienne Westwood. Does it get any better?

INDIE FAVE: How totally gorgeous was Florence Welch in her lace Valentino tiered frock? Such a cool juxtaposition of rocker and girly chic.

BEST JEWELRY: While Amy Adams sizzled in a glittering L’Wren Scott gown, it was her Cartier emeralds—reportedly worth $1.35 million—that stole the show.

WORST CLEAVAGE: Jennifer Hudson is a pretty girl—and her newfound figure is stunning. But can we be honest here for a second? Yes, she’s gorgeous. Yes, the dress is a show stopper. But this dress with this cleavage?

WORST ATTITUDE: I didn’t hate the dress (and please—how could anything look bad on that body?). The gum chewing and hair, however, are another story.

BED HEAD: Wearing a mess of a dress that my friend Vincent describes as “ecclesiastical red,” Scarlett Johansson looks like she just rolled out of bed without taking off her makeup from the night before. Or brushing her hair.

F BOMB: Melissa Leo, I couldn’t agree more.

WORST JUDGEMENT: Nicole, we hear that you wanted to show support for an anti-Semite by wearing Dior, but this dress is doing nobody any favors—least of all your hips.

Watts Towers in the Rain

In Design, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on February 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm

A few weeks ago I read a story about the Watts Towers in the New York Times, and was struck by the following point: “The Watts Towers may hold the twin distinctions of being perhaps the finest example of indigenous Los Angeles art and the least known, or least visited, by people who live in the region.” He’s right, you know. I’ve lived in LA for over a decade and until today had never visited these extraordinary installations. My friend Lizzie and I set out in the rain for South Central this morning and I don’t think either of us really knew just how incredible the Watts Towers would be. The whole scene is madness—the result of three decades of an eccentric tinkering in his back yard. Sabato “Simon” Rodia was an Italian immigrant who measured 4’10” and built all of this by hand starting in the 1920s—17 structures constructed of steel and mortar, and covered in broken glass bottles, cracked ceramic plates, sea shells and tiles.

He did all of this without any scaffolding or welding, bolts or rivets. The towers reach almost 100 feet. The tower photographed below reaches 99 1/2 feet, and represents the tallest slender reinforced concrete column in the world.

He called his vision Nuestro Pueblo (meaning “Our Town”) and performed weddings and baptisms within the towers for the community.

In addition to three bird baths, a circular gazebo, a replica of Marco Polo’s ship and many other expected details, look closely and you will discover a cactus garden erected from crushed green glass and surrounded by the artist’s “rose garden” he created using these tiles:

For anyone into ceramics, it’s incredible. I recognized some Batchelder, as well as some pieces of Fiestaware and J.A. Bauer, and our tour guide pointed out hand-painted Canton ware and Malibu Tiles from the 20s.

You can tour inside the towers Friday through Sunday, and admission costs $7. For hours and info, click HERE.

Pumpkin Flan

In Food on February 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I know we have a ways till Thanksgiving, but I’m already sold on this year’s dessert. This past weekend—for my Turkey in Mole Poblano soiree—I liberated a leftover can of pumpkin purée, added it to a flan and topped with some pepitas toasted in ancho salt. MAGIC. I might make it again this weekend for the Oscars, any excuse really. This was the first time I’d made flan and the first time I’d made a dry caramel. Talk about weird science. You just heat plain cane sugar in a pan until it turns to caramel. (Obvi for some, revolutionary for the rest of us.)

The caramel gets poured into a souffle dish, and then the flan so that when you eventually turn it upside down, the caramel spills out and pools around the flan.

The flan itself is a snap—you probably already have most of the ingredients in your cupboard. Click HERE for recipe. The flavor and texture—absolute perfection. My flan was a little runny in the middle so next time I might cook a little longer than the recommended hour and 15 minutes, and make sure it has more than 6 hours chilling in the fridge to set. Oh, and with any dessert it passes the most important test of all: A++ leftover for breakfast the next morning with a cup of coffee.

O Mole Night

In Food on February 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm

It’s taken me three days to get around to writing this post because it’s taken that long to recover from making Sunday night’s mole poblano, the prized dish of Mexico that contains over 20 ingredients that lend this sauce its gorgeous complexity. Having cooked from Gourmet and Martha for years, I was not intimidated by an unmanageable list of ingredients. That said, and to borrow from our former Chief Executive, I may have “misunderestimated” what is involved in the actual process of making the mole—a fact that became clear somewhere around Hour 3, when I was still in the thick of it with no end in sight.

But let’s back up.

Some of you might recall the Turkey Trauma of Thanksgiving 2010 in which I was sent a barely street legal 7.5 lb turkey the size of a large chicken instead of the 12-14 lb bird I ordered. It’s been burning a hole in my freezer drawer ever since. Last weekend, I decided to break out Tiny Tom and make my very first mole. A few days before I made the mole, I dry brined the turkey with salt and Mexican oregano and let sit in the fridge. I’ve included a mini can (7.5 ounces) of Dr. Pepper in the photo for an idea of scale. Think about it.

J’adore mole, particular the darker versions with a hint of chocolate (which tempers the heat of the chilies). I found this recipe for Turkey in Mole Poblano in an old issue of Saveur. I can promise you that when followed to the letter of the law the recipe is nothing short of spectacular. It’s also nothing short. Period. Because mole takes a long, long time. First there is the deseeding of the three types of a few dozen chilies.

Some of these seeds get toasted with sesame seeds stovetop before they are ground into a fine powder.

Whole cloves, peppercorns and aniseed get toasted separately and then ground into a fine powder before joining the mix, along with dried thyme, marjoram, cinnamon and torn bay leaves. Meanwhile the deseeded chilies are submerged in boiling water for half an hour before they are toasted in small batches in hot oil.

Then comes Satan’s work. In several batches, you puree chilies with their soaking liquid and stock in a blender, then pass through a sieve. This takes more time than you can possibly imagine. Then you set the chile purée aside.

Back to the frying pan. There are various seeds and nuts that also get the hot oil treatment—individually—because each ingredient cooks at a different rate.

As well as slices of bread and stale tortillas. Once they’ve all drained on paper towels, they get added to the spice powder mixture.

And then set aside while you slice an onion and peel 10 cloves of garlic. These get sautéed, transferred to the spice mix, and then tomatoes and tomatillos are sautéed, transferred to mix, and then along with this stock, it all gets pureed in the blender and pressed through a sieve. I really never want to see my blender again after this project.

At some point I threw the bird in the oven—it’s all a blur—and at some point all of the above ingredients were married on the stovetop and simmered away for a good long time.

And don’t forget the cup of chopped Mexican chocolate!

It was a good six hours of active cooking—and that’s not counting the shopping. But nothing worth having comes easy. And mole is very much worth having. All the better if you can share it with good friends. And by the way? That turkey served four.

Pasta with Poached Egg and Cracked Pepper

In Food on February 19, 2011 at 10:18 am

We often find ourselves trying new recipes and promising to put them in regular rotation and then we promptly forget and move onto the next thing. Not this time. The other night I wanted to cook from the contents of our fridge and use up a few pieces of bacon, some wilting tarragon, an orphaned wedge of parm and an opened box of Barilla Plus spaghetti. What resulted was this Peppery Pasta Carbonara with Poached Egg—a sort of deconstructed carbonara with a poached egg on top in which good old bacon stands in for guanciale. I cut back on the butter by about half and trimmed the bacon of serious fat before cooking, so our version was slightly more virtuous, but only slightly…

We Heart Birthdays (and Raw Meat)

In Food on February 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Nothing says “I love you” like a heart-shaped mound of raw beef, and so to celebrate our friend Alec’s birthday (which falls on Valentine’s Day) we made steak tartare last night using Anthony Bourdain’s awesome recipe. As is our custom, Alec stopped at Burger King on the way over to grab a few FryPods (we are all about high-low over here) and we washed it all down with some Cabernet. And for dessert? Alec and my husband’s favorite chocolate bread pudding with cinnamon custard. What’s not to love?

Be Still My Heart

In Baby Love on February 13, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Tomorrow my two-and-a-half year old will be exchanging valentines with his entire preschool class. Since his mother is illiterate in glue guns, felt hearts and pinking sheers, he’s going old school with vintage-style valentines that I found at Chevalier Books on Larchmont. But nothing—and I mean nothing—can compete with the valentine he proudly handed me after school on Friday. Be still my heart.


Bucatini with Romanesco, Mint and Capers

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A., Recipes on February 11, 2011 at 9:58 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). For $25/week, each Wednesday I pick up a huge bag of produce from local farmers at the nearby Wilshire Ebell Theatre.

I can’t tell you how much I dig this—I totally look forward to Wednesdays now. And have been having so much fun challenging myself to use everything in my haul each week. It kind of forces your hand as a cook. Like this week, when we discovered a gorgeous chartreuse sci-fi head of romanesco. Sometimes called Romanesco Broccoli or Romanesco Cauliflower, it’s a form of cauliflower with a slightly nutty flavor. And it’s beautiful beyond belief.

The conical florets remind me of Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour. I mean, if Gaultier were going to design a vegetable, surely it would be le romanesco, non?

I’d like to think that Jean-Paul would approve of this romanesco pasta creation, which I’d like to humbly say was something of an inspiration. And I realized as I was serving it that—added bonus—it’s vegan, unless of course you liberally sprinkle it with shaved Pecorino Romano as we did.

Bucatini with Romanesco, Mint and Capers

1 head of romanesco

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons red chili flakes

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons chopped capers

1 lb bucatini, cooked to desired doneness

Salt and pepper, to taste

Break off romanesco florets and soak in ice water for about 10 minutes, to preserve color.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. In a separate skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Sauté minced garlic, red pepper flakes, mint and capers for 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove from heat. When water is boiling, drain romanesco from ice bath and add to boiling water for 3-5 minutes, until al dente. (Don’t overcook—you want a little texture from the florets.) Drain and toss in skillet with garlic and mint mixture.

Mix with pasta, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

The Valentine’s Dinner Dilemma

In Food on February 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm

I love my husband, I love restaurants, but I hate going out to eat on Valentine’s Day mostly because I dread having to inhale the cloying smog of 50-odd competing perfumes in an enclosed space. It seems that February 14 unleashes the inner spritzer in so many of us. This year, we’re just not doing it and instead are staying in for a cozy night of fondue. On Monday I plan to hit the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills to pick out some Gruyère, Appenzeller and Emmentaler to make my grandmother’s recipe for cheese fondue. It’s a show stopper, just like the woman herself! Everyone in my family makes this fondue, and we all have the same fondue pot in different colors. Mine is in a fabulous discontinued flame orange—a present from our friends Booth and Adam. But the cherry red pictured above from Le Creuset would make a great gift for your Valentine, don’t you think?

Dinner Party in Less Than Two Hours

In Food on February 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm
Friday afternoon I had a last-minute work meeting that ended sometime in the 4 o’clock hour, putting me back at home closer to 5 pm. Guests would be arriving—with illegal Chinese ham—at 7:30 pm. Two of these guests would be food bloggers, which kind of freaked me out. Pressure was on. And one of these guests would be 33 weeks pregnant so I didn’t want to take my chances with shellfish. And so, I did what any pork lover in her right mind would do. I served more pork. This Herb-Roasted Pork Loin could not be easier and presentation is sooo pretty. Simply mix up a little dijon, chopped shallots and minced garlic and smooth over the roast. Set roast on a bed of herbs, and cover with some more and let it do its thing for a couple hours while you go into high gear on the sides.
This roast also means that you’ll be able to hang out with your guests rather than fussing last minute—it comes out of the oven picture perfect and so damn good.
So while the roast was roasting, I made up a batch of Suzanne Goin’s salsa verde with French feta that takes about two seconds in a mini Cuisinart (a bunch of Italian parsley, fresh marjoram, basil, anchovy, olive oil, lemon juice—blend it up and then add chopped capers and crumbled French feta). I took another page out of Goin’s book for her awesome salad of blood oranges, dates, parmesan, and almonds that she served at the SAG Awards last weekend. And because this evening was designed around the contraband ham I broke out a little contraband of my own: I drizzled some smuggled South African olive oil over the salad. (The recipe calls for almond oil, but the olive oil was plenty dreamy.)
Also, I pulled out one of my favorite quickie sides—an onion and Gruyère tart—using a secret WEAPON: frozen puff pastry from the supermarket. I’ll post that recipe tomorrow, but here’s a pic of the tart. I usually use bacon or lardons, but given our heavy handedness with the pork already, I went with cured black olives instead.
And because I had the time and the ingredients, I made a super-fast batch of tuna rillettes from Dorie Greenspan’s new Around My French Table cookbook to nibble along with the contraband ham. Recipe to come, but wouldn’t these make a great hostess gift?
Finally, I’m cheating just a little when I say I had dinner ready in less than two hours. Because I didn’t make dessert. Fittingly, since I’d borrowed from Suzanne Goin at every turn on Friday night, my friend Robyn brought “Snickers Bars” from the Larder at Tavern in Brentwood and some vanilla ice cream. There are no words. Well, maybe just two: THANK YOU!