Skip to content
July 17, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

getting centered with a bowl of soup…. in july.

Matzo ball soup from Jan's Coffee Shop in Los Angeles.

Matzo ball soup from Jan’s Coffee Shop in Los Angeles.


My street cred when it comes to matzo ball soup is shaky at best: I don’t have a bubbie, and truth be told, I can’t make a (good) matzo ball to save my life. As a chef, I’m disappointed to admit this shortcoming in my repertoire. But then again, there are lots of things I can’t cook well, like hollandaise, or anything that requires culinary precision, like French macarons or tiny fancy cakes.

Last week, in the middle of a July heat wave, I had a debilitating craving for matzo ball soup. This wasn’t just any kind of craving, like “I’m craving chocolate, so any version of chocolate – cookie, ice cream, cake, chocolate chips if we have them – will do.” This was a craving that hit deep in my gut, one that went beyond filling my belly with a warm bowl of soup. To me, a bowl of matzo ball soup is the dietary version of a hug. It’s comforting in the way the aroma floats up into your nose, caressing it with savory promises. I love that first spoonful of broth and the way that you can feel it warming up your body from the inside out, coating your tummy with goodness that restores the life to your soul. I love the way the matzo yields to each bite, with strangely familiar flavor and spongy-soft texture. So while matzo ball soup wasn’t a part of my childhood experiences of family, love, or comfort, it has come to symbolize those familiar nurturing qualities for me as an adult. And right now, I’m craving comfort, love, and more than anything, I’m craving home.

You may have noticed that I’ve been away from my blog for a while. I’ve been working on new projects and traveling…lots of traveling…which is wonderful until it’s not. Sometimes the best place to be is home, which is why I’m writing about matzo ball soup in the middle of July. I’m back at home in the bungalow, and craving my creature comforts more than the Roman pasta I dreamed about for years, enjoyed on a patio in the shadow of the Parthenon. I want to get back to my simple yogurt parfaits in lieu of flaky French croissants. Even the flakiest croissant I’ve ever had – and yes, it was truly remarkable and so so so good – can’t replace the comfort of making coffee in the morning for my husband while I gently whip up breakfast polenta and pour it into my favorite mug. I want to sleep in my own bed and I want to sit on my patio. These things aren’t particularly fancy or grand; our patio holds two small armchairs, a round table with plastic chairs, and is watched over by a lovely flowering tulip tree. That’s it, but it’s all ours, and I enjoy watching over my happy patio while washing dishes. I miss puttering in my kitchen, wandering my local farmers market, and chatting with my neighbors. Sometimes I prefer the simple comforts of home in lieu of a grand chateau, or the jaw-dropping Gaudi architecture of Barcelona, or even the serene shores of Lake Michigan. Sometimes home is the only place I want to be.

The other night, I walked to our corner diner and ordered a matzo ball soup to go. I love that in a town of glitz like Los Angeles, where a hot new restaurant opens every day, this place feels like it hasn’t changed one thing in over 50 years. It feels like time forgot this corner of Beverly Boulevard, with its giant parking lot of free parking. There is no valet stand at Jan’s. There is a long bar with round stools reminiscent of a soda fountain, and deep, comforting booths. They make their matzo ball soup from scratch every day. I know this because when we walk our dog through the neighborhood in the morning, I can smell the onions that have gone into the pan to sweat down, awaiting the addition of carrots, celery, and other aromatics. They still make most things from scratch at Jan’s. And while it’s not particularly remarkable or fancy, sometimes that’s what I want over the latest and greatest, or the trip of a lifetime.

I’m feeling grateful to be home, even if it’s short-lived. Soon we’ll set out for a new adventure, new places and dishes to taste and photos to take. We’ll be spending the rest of the summer in New York, among those tall, strong skyscrapers, feeling the energy of the streets and the sweltering heat of the deep summer. I will seek comfort in finding new routines, perhaps not matzo ball soup but something that will remind me of the comforts of home while we’re away. Until then, I’m going to savor this bowl and all of it’s steamy goodness…even if it is making me sweat in the middle of a heat wave.

February 14, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

inspiration from the farmers market…

I wanted share some Valentine’s Day-inspired visuals from the Santa Monica Farmers Market this week.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day weekend!

The heart-shaped potato is known as "Ron's red burgundy," grown and named by farmer Alex Weiser.  The white potatoes in the background are Russian banana fingerlings.

The heart-shaped potato is called “Ron’s red burgundy,” grown and named by farmer Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms. The white potatoes in the background are Russian banana fingerlings.

Photo compliments of Weiser Family Farm.

Photo compliments of Weiser Family Farm.

February 13, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

a fun take on valentine’s day…

I’ll admit, this post is a departure from my previous post on art history and culture, experienced within the beautiful walls of the Getty Villa.

But honestly, this shake video was SO FUN to make!

Tastemade is at it again, taking their Slacker shake and turning it on its head to create a Hacker shake just in time for Valentines Day.

“Make a shake using Valentine’s Day conversation hearts,” said the powers-that-be, and so we went to work creating this doozy of a combination. Spending several days creating and taste-testing milkshakes is a rough job, but someone has to do it! It’s true, it took a few no-so-pretty versions before we chose the final version…mixing orange and green hearts does not produce a pretty (or tasty) milkshake…but the final product is a sight to be seen. Eric (director) and Emily (producer) came up with the idea of adding crushed purple hearts to the whipped cream. I admit, I was skeptical at first but it was truly worth all the trouble of using the whipped cream charger. Grinding the purple hearts down to a dust that could be mixed into the cream and then figuring out how to use the nitrous cartridges the right way (there might have been a purple explosion before we mastered it) resulted in something beautiful AND delicious!

I hope you enjoy the video…and have a happy Valentine’s Day!

February 11, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

a passionate (and delicious!) way to celebrate valentine’s day…

Spiced & Honeyed Beet Dip was one of the recipes featured in a recent class I attended at the Getty Villa.  Beets are considered an aphrodisiac because they can increase blood flow.  They also contain high amounts of boron, which is integral to the production of human sex hormones.

Spiced & Honeyed Beet Dip was one of the recipes featured in a recent class I attended at the Getty Villa. Beets are considered an aphrodisiac because they can increase blood flow. They also contain high amounts of boron, which is integral to the production of human sex hormones.

To me, Valentine’s Day sparks thoughts of sticky-sweet candy, heart-shaped chocolates, and a pile of small, red & pink cards from every one of my classmates, prompted by my grade school’s insistence that students must award their attention fairly to the entire class.  Later on in junior high and high school, my father began sending a bouquet of flowers to both my sister and me to honor Valentine’s Day.  I suspect he began doing so one year as the holiday approached and one (or both) of us had experienced a broken heart and would surely not receive anything special from a suitor.  In anticipation of tears, he began a tradition that continued for many years.   The tradition continued all the way up until I moved out to California.  As he had every year, my father sent a bouquet for Valentine’s Day but the delivery was made to a neighboring apartment complex rather than mine, which I think discouraged him and ended the tradition. Today, Valentine’s Day comes and goes with a little more than a couple of cards shared between my husband and I, maybe dinner plans or an afternoon at the spa, both of us willing to give the holiday to the young and passionate.

One of the groups in our cooking class created this platter of grilled chicken skewers with basil almond pesto.  Almonds are associated with fertility due to their aroma, which is thought to arouse passion in females.  Basil is also thought to stimulate sex drive and boost fertility, and its scent is used to induce an overall sense of well-being.

One of the groups in our cooking class created this platter of grilled chicken skewers with basil almond pesto. Almonds are associated with fertility due to their aroma, which is thought to arouse passion in females. Basil is also thought to stimulate sex drive and boost fertility, and its scent is thought to create an overall sense of well-being.

Last week, however, I experienced a new take on Valentines Day, one that combined food, culture, and art in a compelling and delicious way.  I signed up for “Aphrodisiac Cocktail Party” at the encouragement of a friend who insisted that the culinary workshops held at the Getty were well worth their investment.  I had attempted to sign up for these classes in the past but with no luck; they fill up quickly, typically selling out like a sought-after concert.  However this experience takes place on the breathtaking grounds of the Getty Villa rather than in a packed arena.  The class was hosted by Maite Gomez-Rejon of ArtBites, the company she founded that blends her love of food and art history.  Maite’s background includes both a culinary degree (from the French Culinary Institute) as well as a master’s degree in fine art.  And when you add the Getty Villa’s incredible collection of art to the mix, well, you’ve got a very compelling (and delicious) afternoon.

In class we created this delicious platter of dates stuffed with pomegranate arils, pistachios, and mascarpone cheese.  Some say that it was not an apple but a pomegranate that Adam & Eve feasted upon in the Garden of Eden.

My group created this delicious platter of dates stuffed with pomegranate arils, pistachios, and mascarpone cheese. Some say that it was not an apple but a pomegranate that Adam & Eve feasted upon in the Garden of Eden.

After briefly meeting up in a classroom, the group toured through the museum for almost 90 minutes. Maite stopped along the way to highlight specific pieces and to discuss their significance to our gathering. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and pleasure, was a major theme of the works we examined on our tour. We viewed statues, storage jars, jewelry, and other pieces while Maite shared stories about how the Greeks and Romans viewed food, sex, and pleasure. I found it fascinating to learn that so many foods that we enjoy today were considered aphrodisiacs in the ancient world. Phallic and sex organ-shaped foods, such as asparaguas, peaches, and figs has long been considered aphrodisiacs. More interesting, I learned that the association of seafood as an aphrodisiac comes from Aphrodite, who is said to have sprung from the foam of the sea.

This gorgeous platter of seared scallops with a green herb sauce utilizes several foods that are considered aphrodisiacs.  Seafood is considered an aphrodisiac thanks to Aphrodite; their shape is also very suggestive.    Herbs were associated with health and vitality, creating a mood that could lead to passion.

This gorgeous platter of seared scallops with a green herb sauce utilizes several foods that are considered aphrodisiacs. Seafood is considered an aphrodisiac thanks to Aphrodite; their shape is also very suggestive. Herbs were associated with health and vitality, creating a mood that could lead to passion.

After a fascinating and inspiring tour of the museum, we met back in the classroom to cook through the recipes Maite had created, all of which included at least one ingredient considered an aphrodisiac. What I found interesting is that while some of the students came with a friend or two, most of us were meeting each other for the first time. The cooking began tentatively as each student wandered to a station and introduced her or himself to the other students at that station. The cooking might have begun slowly but soon the room was full of chatter, each of us exchanging ideas and suggestions and bonding over this shared experience of preparing food together. A drink station that included two different cocktail recipes, one using peach juice and the other using rose syrup, served as another point of interaction. As one student would make a drink and exclaim it delicious, other students would wander over to find out what the fuss was about, joining in the fun.

Peaches have long been associated with sex because of their shape.  This recipe also included rosemary, which was commonly used in wedding bouquets throughout the ancient world.  Rosemary is thought to promote sweet dreams.

Peaches have long been associated with sex because of their shape. This recipe also included rosemary, which was commonly used in wedding bouquets throughout the ancient world. Rosemary is thought to promote sweet dreams.

Once all the food was prepared, our group moved into another room that set with tables meant for sharing the meal together. We all took turns walking through a gorgeous buffet of our creations, chatting and laughing like one big, happy family. In that moment, I was reminded how powerful food is to our basic human experience. We came together to learn about the foods that inspired art and created culture throughout ancient times. However, we also shared the experience with one another, “breaking bread” in the most basic, humanistic way. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and has forever changed that way that I view Valentine’s Day.

Special thanks to Maite Gomez-Rejon of ArtBites and the Getty Villa for creating an interesting, high-quality course.

For future art + food-related events with Maite, check out her schedule here.

You may also like to familiarize yourself with the incredible offering at both the Getty and the Getty Villa, calendar found here.

After cooking through all the recipes, our group sat down to a delicious meal of aphrodisiac-inspred foods.

After cooking through all the recipes, our group sat down to a delicious meal of aphrodisiac-inspred foods.

January 28, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

need salad inspiration?

This "Power Salad" is made with yellow split peas and farro.

This “Power Salad” is made with yellow split peas and farro.

This recipe first appeared on Eating Made Easy, a blog written by my friend and nutritionist, Amelia Winslow.  Amelia’s blog is full of healthy, delicious recipes, including the month of salads she is featuring in January.  Amelia is my go-to-girl for nutrition advice, as she gives common sense suggestions that fit into my busy, food-loving life.

I was excited to share this “recipe,” as I often create salads like this one when I’m anticipating a busy week.  I mix up all the ingredients on Sunday, parcel the salad out into individual jars, and stick them in the fridge until I need something quick and healthy.  Please don’t be too concerned with following the recipe; use it more as a guide and throw in items that are fresh, in-season, and on hand at your house.  You’ll soon discover what combinations you like best.  If the salad tastes flat, it probably needs more lemon, salt and/or pepper, or a drizzle of olive oil.  If you get stuck, just ask and I would be happy to help you work it out into something delicious!  Read on for my latest mix.

January 28, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

yellow lentil power salad

The ingredients for this power salad are healthy, crunchy, & delicious!

The ingredients for this power salad are healthy, crunchy, & delicious!

I came up with this idea for a salad when I wanted to take something with me that was healthy but also substantial.  Combining grains and lentils add protein and heft, and the veggies add a nice fresh crunch.  Don’t be shy with the fresh lemon juice or salt; the grains need to be seasoned well, otherwise the salad will be bland.  Feel free to experiment with different grain and bean options.  I have yet to meet a combination that I don’t like!

Yellow Lentil Power Salad

1/2 cup yellow lentils

1/2 cup farro

1/2 cup Israeli couscous

2 celery ribs

2 carrots

4 scallion tops, green parts only

1/2 cup cilantro leaves (pull the stems out and keep for other dishes)

fresh lemon juice (about 2) + extra-virgin olive oil to taste

salt + freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook each of the grains/lentils separately and according to package directions, minus a couple of minutes.  The key to this salad is grains and lentils that are still al dente, or have texture when you bite into them.  Mushy grains will result in a mushy salad.  In my experience, the lentils cooked in ten minutes, the the farro cooked for 20 minutes, and the couscous was ready in just four minutes.

While the grains are cooking, chop the celery and carrot into small dice, or into the size that you would prefer to eat.  Chop the scallion tops and the cilantro leaves a little smaller so that they distribute evenly through the salad.

Allow the grains to cool before combining the ingredients to make the salad.

When ready to assemble the salad, combine the grains and veggies in a large bowl, then toss generously with fresh lemon juice.  Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil until wet and shiny (a couple of tablespoons should be enough), and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stir well to combine, then taste and see if it needs more salt or lemon, etc.  It’s a good idea to go with more lemon (and salt if needed) because the grains will absorb the flavors.

This salad improves with time, so it’s a great make-ahead option.  If you don’t have one of these ingredients, feel free to substitute with what you have on hand.  Fresh parsley is a great stand-in for the cilantro, and if you have leftover brown rice in your fridge, for instance, use that instead of going through the trouble of making farro.  You can also serve this salad over greens for a heftier meal, as well as add chunks of chicken if you like.  This salad travels very well.  I like to store it in mason jars and take it with me when I need healthy “fast food.” Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Eating Made Easy to honor a month of salads for January 2014!  Thanks for the invite, Amelia!

This "Power Salad" is made with yellow split peas and farro.

I love the bright colors in this “power salad” combination. 

 

January 26, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

inspiration from the farmers market…

This purple variety of cauliflower is called "graffiti."

This purple variety of cauliflower is called “graffiti.”

Colorful cauliflower found at the Culver City Farmers Market in Los Angeles, California.

I love adding cauliflower, especially the purple, to a platter of winter crudites!

Different varieties of cauliflower grown by Underwood Family Farm.

Different varieties of cauliflower grown by Underwood Family Farm in Southern California.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers