Girl + Fire = Food



Monday, July 18, 2011

Eating Real During Carmageddon

This past weekend a 10 mile portion of a major Los Angeles freeway was shut down so an overpass could be removed. The news outlets had been relentlessly hyping the event for weeks, inciting panic about what would become of a city dependent on cars. Someone coined the stupid term Carmageddon.

Turned out to be the easiest weekend for trafficthere was none! So what did we Angelenos do since we thought we couldn't waste gasoline? We ate!

An upside of a major freeway shut down was the free bus rides around town. And one of those buses just happened to stop both immediately outside my house AND the Eat Real Festival a few miles down the road at the old Helms Bakery.

The festival was all about getting back to eating real food. It had a manifesto!

It’s high time to revitalize and reenergize American food – making better quality, healthier, and less processed food available is an urgent priority for our country. To make more real food readily accessible to Americans, we need to support the continued growth of farms practicing sustainable agriculture, we need to demand the production of better food by our country’s large food manufacturers, and – above all – we must support the regrowth of regional food systems with strong connections to our community and culture. Supporting this regrowth means bringing back foodways and food craftsmanship skills that disappeared decades ago and relearning the ancient arts of preparing, processing, and conserving our food.

All that AND free entertainment, plus bike valets and a free shuttle for those who opted to drive over. The festival was completely free and all food sold was $5 or less. Which meant we dined on flat iron steak (courtesy of the Flat Iron Truck) and bacon mac & cheese for a mere five bucks each. Lots of other food trucks were there as well the Roaming Hunger guys: the Nom Nom Truck of Food Network fame, Temaki Truck, Crepe 'N Around, Let's Be Frank, just to name a few. Our friends from Food Forward had a booth, Reride Ranch brought piggies and ducks, and even Culver City's finest came to grab a snack.

Inside, vendors hawked their wares. The guys from Homeboy Industries were selling bread, the Cast Iron Gourmet was doling out samples of her bacon chutney, and people were lining up for Mother In Law's Kimchi. Spicy!

The festival coordinators had a jam-packed schedule with activities going on constantly, but they did a really great job at spreading them across the complex: there was a DIY area for learning to make sauerkraut, pickled lemons and bacon, a Craft Stage (replete with bales of hay for seating), two Beer Gardens (inside and outside), and even live entertainment in two areas. The surrounding retail shops offered discounts to festival goers, and some even hosted talks (like Food Writing 2.0, which I unfortunately missed *sad face*).

Signs all over touted the area as a "waste-free zone." Volunteers helped separate trash for recycling and composting. The event was full, yet there was no litter, and no frenzied impatience like most food festivals with their Disneyland-esque long lines. We didn't wait longer than 10 minutes in any line and the community spirit and support that Eat Real's manifesto aims for was present everywhere.

As for Carmageddon? It was a completely boring non-event. The bridge destruction even finished a day early, so we all went back to driving again on Sunday. The news outlets deemed it Carmaheaven.

Us Angelenos rolled our eyes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Attempt At Samosas

I love Indian food. I used to live around the corner from Samosa House, which was recently featured on the Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate. The adorable food blogger turned network star, Aarti Sequeira, mentioned it and its namesake samosas as the best thing she's ever eaten.

They are absolutely delicious. And when I lived a mere 3 minutes away, I would binge on them every Wednesday night. I don't know how or why Wednesdays became samosa night, but it was my weekly treat.

Samosa House is actually a wonderful little Indian market with a small selection of cooked foods, all vegetarian. This is where I was turned on to jackfruit, which is a story for another time, but suffice to say it is also delicious.

I'm a big fan.

And one day, after Aarti's own recipe for baked samosas ended up on my Facebook stream, I decided to get fancy and try making my own. She made it sound so easy. I had everything in the kitchen except the dough, and I figured I'd used Erika's paprika chicken for an additional spice kick. So off to the market I went to hunt down some frozen pastry dough.

I didn't pay attention to the fact that what I actually picked up was phyllo dough instead. I was distracted by my excitement for homemade samosas, apparently. But you can tell where this is going.

I could tell right after I tore open the package that something was wrong. And that's when I finally read the package. There may have been some curse words at my own expense. I could have gone right back to the store, but I was hungry, the filling was ready, and I decided I was up for a challenge.

It was the single most maddening kitchen experience I have ever had.

The potato and chicken mixture was divine (I left out the peas because I don't like them). But trying to spoon said mixture into an ultra-thin, delicate sheet of phyllo is the stuff of culinary nightmares.

For your consideration, what samosas from Samosa House actually look like:

and my sad attempt to create a baked version:

But this was not a complete failure because even though they don't look as pretty, my samosas were damn good.

I'm going to attempt these again in the very near future, and this time, they will be perfect. Both inside and out.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Summer has finally arrived in California. One day it was freezing cold (as in there's still snow on the ground in some spots), the next it was in the 80s and now everyone is complaining and cranking up the AC.

We're fickle, spoiled creatures.

But just because it's a scorching summer and I don't have artificially cold air in my home (I live by an ocean, naturally cold air!), doesn't mean I won't turn on the oven and roast poor defenseless vegetables. Because roasted vegetables are so much yummier than raw ones (especially cauliflower, regular and Roman).

So it was without even a second thought that when Erika Kerekes posted her oven-roasted cherry tomatoes recipe on Facebook, that I walked right into my kitchen and followed her directions. Luckily I had just picked up 2 baskets of grape tomatoes.

First I laid them all out on a pan, and rubbed them lovingly with olive oil and Adobo seasoning. They enjoyed it.

Then I roasted them till they shriveled up into little tomato raisins.

They liked that too.

Like Erika will tell you, "they get redder, softer, juicier." And sweeter. I've put them in every single salad I've had this week (and I eat one for lunch every day), the spaghetti I made last night, and even stood over the pan above and just ate them straight out of the oven. Until I burned my tongue and managed to hold off for a while, till they cooled an edible temperature.

Throw them in a jar and dare yourself not to eat them all at once.

Erika's recipe can be found here. Though I would recommend doing this early in the morning or late in the evening, especially if you don't live by an ocean.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Food Forward HQ Opening

To celebrate their third summer, Food Forward opened their new "Fruit-Quarters" in North Hollywood. A play on the word "headquarters," the new Fruit Cave houses the Fruit-mobile and is the center of operations for the numerous fruit pick-ups that they coordinate every month.

A non-profit organization that harvests locally-grown food from private homes and public spaces and then redistributes it to food banks, Food  Forward "is an all volunteer grassroots group of Angelenos who care about reconnecting to our food system and making change around urban hunger." Their mission is to "create a community in which the abundance of food available in Southern California is used to feed those who are hungry."

I had first learned about the organization at the SFV Food Swap, so my mom and I decided to pop in to the party and learn more. What we found was a group of individuals who are genuinely community-minded and dedicated to eradicating hunger.

The group was founded by Rick Nahmias, a photographer, writer, filmmaker and trained cook. His concern for food justice is illustrated in his moving collection The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers. Since its inception, Food Forward has grown its partnerships to distribute food to over 35,000 people each month. 100% of each harvest is donated to charity. To date, that equals 448,847 pounds of fruit given to hungry people.

That's nearly half a million pounds of food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Half. A. Million.

At the opening, I spent a great deal of time chatting with volunteer coordinator Max Kanter. His excitement and energy for Food Forward's mission is contagious! There are "picks" every week around town. This week alone there are four, with another six (so far) planned for the rest of the month.

If you have a fruit-baring tree, there's probably more fruit than mouths to feed in your house. Your neighbors probably do, too. If that's the case, consider having Food Forward coordinate a harvest of your neighborhood. (It's tax deductible, too!)

Or if you're simply interested in volunteering for a pick, do! I'll be on on one soon, too.

Check out the website. There is an area for property owners looking to donate their harvests and volunteers looking to do some harvesting. Or if you simply want to contribute via cash money, you can do that as well.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rosita's Potato Salad

Happy 4th of July! In this country, it's a day marked with gluttonous barbecues and fireworks.

I love the fireworks. Troy Patterson hates them, but that's his loss.

I do not, however, love the requisite side dish that accompanies the grilling. Namely, potato salad. There's a simple reason for this, and it's called celery.

I hate celery.

We grew up in a house that did not consume celery. My mother, author of the recipe below, secretly likes it. But my father hates it, so it's okay that I, too, as an adult, hate it. It's the cardboard of the vegetable world. And stop fooling yourself, there are no such things as negative calories.

My mom, having to deal with my dad's vehement dislike for the wooden veggie, created a potato salad without it. And this is what I grew up eating at BBQs. I didn't even know that celery was a traditional ingredient. And I was quite all right with that.

If anyone can explain the appeal of celery to me, I will gladly indulge you. Please, try to convince me that it's not the worst thing next to dirt. And pestilence. That's pretty bad, too.

Another thing I don't really care for is mayonnaise. I don't know why. I think it's because I imagine it clogging my arteries. Beautiful image, isn't it? You're not craving mayonnaise now, are you?

For this, I used a combination of Greek yogurt and Mexican sour cream (crema is more liquidy) in its stead. In fact, I added more than the recipe called for because I wanted it to be more creamy. I also mashed the potatoes a bit. Not completely into mashed potatoes, but just until they were smaller chunks.

It's delicious with a freshly grilled hot dog. The perfect BBQ side dish.

print recipe
Rosita's Potato Salad
A family favorite, sans the hateful celery.
  • 2 large Russet potatoes
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup pickles, diced
  • 1/4 cup pickled red peppers, diced
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt and crema)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon regular mustard
  • 1 pinch each dried oregano, basil, rosemary
  • 1 pinch cumin powder
1. Peel and cube the potatoes. Put in a saucepan and cover with water about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil until tender (poke with a skewer or knife to check). They're done when they offer no resistance. Allow to cool.2. Dice the eggs and add to cool potatoes.3. In a big bowl, mix together pickles, onions, vinegar, garlic powder, dried herbs and cumin.4. Add mustard and mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt and crema). 5. Fold in potatoes, eggs, and red peppers. Mix until evenly combined. 6. For additional creaminess, add more mayonnaise.7. Refrigerate about 30 minutes for flavors to meld. Serve cold.
Yield: 4 servings

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Surly Temple

When I was a but a wee girl, I loved, loved, loved having Shirley Temples whenever our parents took us out to dinner. The sweet fizzies were delightful on their own, but then there was a bright maraschino cherry waiting at the bottom of every glass.

Such good memories.

It was a bit of kismet when I happened upon Rachel's Ch-Cherry Bomb at the San Fernando Valley Food Swap. She makes her own maraschino cherries, which are infinitely more delicious and far less formaldehyde-y than those nuclear red things you get in a jar. (Note: they're not really made with formaldehyde.)

And on the back of the jar, Rachel even provides the recipe for a grown up version of my childhood favorite: the Surly Temple.

Add a dash of your favorite spirit (bacon scotch works amazingly well), and you have a true adult drink.

A very tasty, refreshing, cherry-laden drink perfect for a summer holiday weekend.

Rachel's cinnamon ginger maraschino cherries are integral to this drink. You could risk using the nuclear red ones, or you could come to a food swap and get your own! Become a fan of both the San Fernando Valley Food Swap and Santa Monica Food Swap to find out when the next opportunity to nab some cherries (and even some salsa).

print recipe

Surly Temple
A twist on a childhood favorite.
  • 4 oz ginger ale
  • 2 oz POM pomegranate juice
  • juice of one lime
  • dash of Ch-Cherry Bomb Syrup
  • lots of Ch-Cherry Bomb cherries
Mix together over ice and enjoy. Garnish with a wedge of lime.
Yield: 1 serving