Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween, Part One

We went to a real, old fashioned pumpkin patch up in Ventura a few weekends back, during Abby's "Beach House Birthday Weekend". It was fab, a movie-perfect rural experience. They had a Pumpkin Chucker, people. I didn't pay the $5 to chuck one of the orange lovelies, but I did watch several of the squash grenades launched by others. I think I might have Noah build one of those things in our backyard...
There were several dozen varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds for sale. We got one of the cool Ghost Pumpkins and this crazy thing called a Speckled Swan Gourd. Jealous?
Anyway, it all got me in the Halloween mood way early. And now it's almost, finally here. The kids in the neighborhood helped me set up the porch with all kinds of decorations today. Tomorrow night we're gonna be lame and not go out and party and instead stay home and pass out way too much candy to all the kids. Haven't decided whether or not to carve some of the pumpkins we have or not. Hmm... Guess you'll find out tomorrow.

Architectural Pic of the Day

Another in the neighborhood wanderings series. About seven blocks from our place. This is the detailing at the top of a lovely, brick apartment building.

Brussels Sprouts Are The Best

First off, please excuse the photo. Our real camera's battery was out of juice, so Noah took this picture on his Blackberry. I'm guessing the above photo isn't exactly the best way to persuade people that Brussels sprouts are, indeed, the best.

I honestly don't think I'd ever eaten them until a few years ago - both of my parents loathe (or I should say loathed) them. Until Brian made them for us one Thanksgiving. One bite and I was convinced, as were mom and dad. Perhaps it was the added bacon (or was it pancetta), because as we all know, PORK MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER. And Noah actually liked them, too, which is crazy since I still can't get him to let go of his broccoli phobia and broccoli is a million times less intimidating than Brussels sprouts. I guess that's how good a chef Brian is. Hmm, note to self - have Brian make something with broccoli next time we're in town...

Sunday I picked up some sprouts at the farmers market and had to make them, stat. They just looked that good. Plus Sunset magazine had a recipe for them in the October issue that I'd been dying to try. However, being the cooking tweaker that I am (does that make anyone else think I huff glue and bake cookies? I don't) I had to add in some of my favorite twists from Suzanne Goin's recipe in her "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" cookbook. Namely balsamic vinegar and some of the awesome bacon from the pork guy at the farmers market - think nice thick rashers, not that crappy stuff in the supermarket aisles.

It was perfect for the cool-ish evening (we've been having crisp nights, despite our 90 degree days in LA). Noah and I made it our main course, along with some leftover sourdough, fresh mozzarella, garden basil and tomatoes that we turned into a grilled panini. Yum!

Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Sunset magazine, October 2008

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add 2 tsp. minced garlic and 3/4 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered; cook, stirring often, until softened, 8 minutes. Add 1/4 c. vegetable broth; cook until sprouts are just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tbsp. toaste pine nuts. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Sprinke with grated parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

London Angeles

This is stop two on the "neighborhood tour" I started in yesterday's post.

About three blocks down and three blocks west of our little house in Hollywood you'll find these guys parked. Crazy, huh? It's like the UK came to town and nobody told me. Bastards!

I'm guessing they're parked in a prop car storage facility or some such place. Obviously not in the best working order, probably just available for background rental or something. Either that or there's some kind of wormhole that transported me to York (which is the stated destination on the closer bus).

For some reason when I was messing around with this picture the effect I used decided to give it rounded corners. It seemed appropriate with the tatty bus. Like my parents took the picture on a trip to England in the '70s. It reminds me of a bunch of photos they have of me as a child. Aww.

So, welcome to my crazy world - tropical gardens to double decker buses in less than six blocks. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

Next in the neighborhood tour... Amsterdam?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tropical Southern California

Noah and I went for a walk in our neighborhood the other day, twelve blocks or so, and only in looking back at the photos I took do I realize that those twelve blocks have no less than four distinct styles.

These pictures are from the first few blocks near our house. These bananas grow in front of a house less than a block away, one that's tumbling down and Craftsman in style. Not exactly where you'd imagine planting some banana (or are they plantain) trees.

This cool flower was growing at the base of the bananas. Looks tropical and a little alien at the same time. A less threatening version of the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

Another block after that and we're in the heart of "newly built, vaguely Mediterranean" condo central. Yep, those places are going like hotcakes in this real estate market.

At least they have pretty flowers in the mini-courtyard outside. Like these:

Stay tuned for the next neighborhood style - '60s London. Aren't you, like, dying from curiosity?

Squashin' Good Time

Recently I wanted to make a quick bite, something that would use up some yellow squash I had and wouldn't take forever to make.

I found a zucchini recipe in Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food", which happened to already be open and on my kitchen counter when the hunger struck. It called for five ingredients - zucchini, garlic, oil, salt and marjoram (which we grow in our garden and I never remember to use). The most difficult thing to do in the whole recipe was grate the squash. I substituted the yellow squash for the green zukes and 15 minutes later I was enjoying the dish. You sprinkle the squash with salt in a colander and let it sit for 10 minutes, so most of that was waiting time.

It worked out pretty well. In retrospect I would probably have used less garlic (I used two cloves and I think the recipe only called for one) and sauteed it with the squash instead of turning the cloves into a paste and mixing it in raw.

Grated Yellow Squash with Marjoram
adapted from Alice Water's "The Art of Simple Food", her recipe is Grated Zucchini with Marjoram

2 yellow summer squash
1 clove garlic
1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Grate the squash into a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then press to remove excess water.
Use a mortar and pestle or food processor to turn the garlic into a paste. In a bowl, mix squash, garlic paste and as much oil as you feel the dish needs.
Heat a saute pan on medium, then transfer the mixture into it. Saute until cooked, about 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and mix in a tablespoon or so of marjoram leaves. Add salt, if needed.