as winter melts into spring, i get excited when the produce at farmers markets starts changing, but here in southern california it seems as though beets and kale are here year round. that is just fine by me. this salad blends the merging seasons well with earthy wild rice, sweet golden beets, and crunchy green kale.

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ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice, cooked yielding about 3 cups, let cool
  • 3 medium golden beets, roasted, peeled, let cool and diced
  • 1 bunch of kale (i prefer lacinato for this recipe), blanched, drained fully and chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced small or minced
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

directions:

in a large bowl mix together the cooled wild rice and beets with the kale and onion. in a small bowl add a generous pinch of salt to the vinegar, and slowly whisk in the olive oil until it emulsifies. toss dressing into rice mixture. add salt and pepper to taste.

makes about 4-6 cups

tip: for breakfast the next morning, sauté a little and add to scrambled eggs with goat cheese.

i have become a fan of the grain salad as of late. while trying to explore new places for lunch, when working at warner brothers on ‘pretty little liars‘, and too lazy to bring my own, i discovered olive + thyme. it is just close enough to pick up an to go order, or sit and eat if i want to relax. well, one day i strayed from my usual beet and arugula salad, and chose the quinoa and corn. it was so refreshing and perfect for summer i needed to make it at home. so damn easy.

tonight i when i got home, and knew the only thing doing pretty well in our ltl community garden has been the basil, thought maybe i could do a spin off of the quinoa + corn salad?

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this is what i came up with:

  • quinoa (1 cup dry makes about 3 cups cooked)
  • basil (7-10 large leaves, 1/4 cup once minced)
  • peas (1 cup)
  • feta (1-2 ounces chopped small)
  • red onion (3 tbsp)
  • green onion (1/4 cup)
  • lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • lime juice (2 limes)
  • olive oil (1/4 cup)
  • salt (1/2 tbsp)

i did this all to taste. i started with 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked it, chilled it (or just bring it to room temp), and went from there. parenthesis are meant to be approximations. switch things up a bit. mint for basil. corn for peas. try apple cider vinegar instead of citrus? i don’t care.

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just please enjoy summer!

note: the next day, the citrus seemed to have soaked in and be a bit overpowering, so i may reduce that in the future.

this past weekend, our loft building in downtown los angeles had the first planting of our community garden. we started with a tabula rasa, added some organic soil, trellises, stepping stones, lanterns, tables and chairs.

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we all agreed we wanted it to be organic, so no gmo’s or pesticides allowed. one of our members, and original instigators, linda, also known as the farmers market fairy, was able to pick up a good portion of the seedlings at the wednesday’s santa monica farmers market, and dan, our hoa president, was able to find the remaining at armstrong’s nursery, including a dwarf meyer lemon tree he has named ‘lucy.’

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to celebrate the occasion, dan mixed up a pitcher of refreshing strawberry basil cocktails, which with all the herbs we are growing was a fitting premonition and inspiration for upcoming garden cocktail parties.

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we spread out our newly adopted wee loved ones, guided by what little knowledge we knew of what needs sun or shade, and some other random tips we had collected.

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with that…we started digging.

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once everything was planted, we did a trial watering to get the roots good and soaked.

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we are all aware that urban gardening has it’s challenges. for instance, here in skidrokyo, we find trash thrown over the fence daily, like this welcoming pile of clothing on this particular afternoon…

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…but bringing together our neighbors…

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…and seeing those vibrant green sprouts sticking out of the dark brown soil…

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…makes it all worth it.

‘when i go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, i feel such an exhilaration and health that i discover that i have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what i should have done with my own hands.’  -ralph waldo emerson

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for those interested, here is a list of the fruits, vegetables and herbs we have planted thus far:

  • arugula
  • spinach
  • mint
  • spearmint
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • mediterranean thyme
  • rosemary
  • variegated sage
  • oakleaf lettuce
  • chamomile
  • cilantro
  • lavender
  • basil
  • thai sweet basil
  • purple basil
  • oregano
  • mexican oregano
  • greek oregano
  • poblano pepper
  • fatali pepper
  • serrano pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • red bell pepper
  • yellow bell pepper
  • maui onion
  • bunching onions
  • honeydew
  • snap beans
  • appalachian pole bean
  • tsungshigo tomato
  • cherokee purple tomato
  • hawaiian pineapple tomato
  • sungold cherry tomato
  • sausage tomato
  • armenian cucumber
  • persian cucumber
  • meyer lemon

who knew that dave jr. would be the inspiration for implementing our very own community garden here at little tokyo lofts in downtown los angeles?

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for those who don’t know about dave jr., he was a tomato plant, and my first foray into gardening, but apparently our HOA president watched as i was diligently carrying water up to the top floor of the parking garage to water him, and thought he should have a proper place to live.

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i have been wanting to start a garden here for a while, but honestly, lacked the motivation, time and energy. thankfully it seems as though others in my building also wanted the same thing, and as a group we brought together enough of those key elements to make it happen. we have met once before to talk about what we needed to get the ball rolling, the HOA approved our budget, and tonight we met to discuss what we wanted to plant. oh, and we added these lovely lights and some little garden tables and chairs to enhance the area for relaxing.

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follow along as i post updates, photos, recipes, tips, and yes, most likely some failures. ultimately, hopefully we will not only see our seedlings, little green orbs, and buds grow, but our community brought together and cultivated with something as simple as growing produce, herbs and flowers.

we start planting on saturday.

little tokyo lofts • 420 s. san pedro street • los angeles • ca • 90013

ltlcommunitygarden@gmail.com

despite what kermit the frog sings to us, it’s easy being green. although this dessert has many components, it is rather easy to make, and would be perfect for a st. patrick’s day party. i used a few different green foods in this recipe: bamboo rice, cardamom, mint crystals, pistachos, and even a couple of the eggs had green shells. also, the pistachios and eggs were from local organic farms, so they were green in two ways, since buying local reduces your carbon footprint.

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ingredients:

rice

  • 1/2 cup bamboo rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 jasmine tea bag (optional)

custard

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup half + half
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom, from the seeds of 3 pods, ground with a mortar + pestle

ganache

  • 4.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half + half
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup

toppings

  • mint crystals, ground with mortar + pestle
  • pistachios, chopped small

instructions:

cook the rice (with or without the optional tea bag) until al dente. bamboo rice has a bit of a jasmine flavor and aroma to it so the tea bag just adds to it. fluff and set aside.

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whisk the eggs and sugar well in a bowl until frothy.

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heat the half + half and coconut milk until it is just boiling. lower heat to low, and slowly whisk in some (1/4 cup) of it to the egg/sugar mixture. then whisk it back into the rest of the half + half and coconut milk. add the salt and cardamom, and whisk until all is incorporated. stir in the rice making sure the rice doesn’t clump.

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grease a 13×9 baking dish with butter. place it into a larger baking dish. pour the custard into the smaller baking dish. pour hot water into the larger baking dish until it’s about half way up the side.

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bake in a 350° oven for about an hour. stir the custard 20 minutes in, and test with a toothpick if it seems to be firming up before the hour is up. if it comes out clean, it’s done.

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let it cool for 20-30 minutes. which is plenty of time to make the ganache.

put the chocolate in a bowl. heat the half + half until just boiling. whisk it into the chocolate until smooth. heat the simple syrup a bit (can be the same pot used for the half + half), and whisk into the ganache, which should make it just thin enough to drizzle.

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cut the custard into squares, sprinkle with ground mint crystals, pistachios, and top with the ganache sauce.

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you could certainly put the toppings on prior to cutting, especially if you are transporting, but esthetically it is nice to plate them individually.

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even by the end of kermit’s song he says,

but green’s the color of spring

and green can be cool and friendly-like…

i am green, and it’ll do fine

it’s beautiful, and i think it’s what i want to be.’

be green. be beautiful. happy spring!

note: this recipe was created for a food bloggers contest ‘it’s easy being green‘ by marx foods. they sent me 5 samples of these green foods: bamboo rice, cardamom, mint crystals, green eston lentils, and dill pollen. i had to make an original recipe using at least two of them, blog about it, and submit it to them. this was a lot more challenging than i thought it would be, but very fun none the less. the polls are closed. i won an honorable mention, and a mystery goodie box.

it was almost a year ago that i discovered the wonder of guisados just a couple miles away in boyle heights. they have some of the best tacos i have ever had, so when i heard that they were going to expand to echo park, and eventually downtown, i was ecstatic. the echo park location is just down the street from dodger stadium, and opened just after the new year. i actually can’t believe it took me this long to go check it out.

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to no surprise there was a line out the door. granted it was lunchtime on a friday, but it moved fairly quickly. just like their boyle heights location, the tortillas are handmade right in front of you, from masa made next door to the other location, and the menu is on a chalkboard on the wall. it seems to consist only of tacos at this time, but perhaps they will expand to tamales and ceviche like the other location in the future.

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a nice young man wearing a dodgers hat, who seemed to be running the place, answered some questions i had about the menu, and also delivered our food. i ordered their version of an arnold palmer, called an armando palmero, named after the owner, which is a lemon-lime-hibiscus tea mix.

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for tacos i ordered a mole poblano, a pescado, and a cochinita pibil.

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they have decent sized indoor eating area…

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…but, even though it was a brisk socal day in los angeles, we chose to sit outside on the lovely patio, which has a stone fountain, veladoras on the tables, and a nice view of downtown.

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as we were finishing up, a pickup truck pulled into the parking lot, and none other than armando himself jumped out with a large bag of masa in hand. we congratulated him on a job well done. he explained that his son had called needing more masa, so he rushed it over, and confirmed that the dodger hat wearing young man was indeed his son. this echo park location was opened for him to run. i asked about the future downtown location, which he said is at least six months out, and apparently will be his daughter’s venture into the family business. each of the current locations are only a few miles from where i live, but i am very much looking forward the downtown location opening up only a few blocks away. i see a lot of tacos in my future.

guisados: echo park • 1261 w. sunset blvd. la, ca 90026 • 213-250-7600

i’ve only made risotto once before, but i have been reminded many times by tom colicchio in a few top chef episodes that it can be quite tricky. in fact, once again a chef was just recently eliminated by making one not to the judges liking. i’ve had a wild mushroom risotto at past top chef winner ilan hall’s restaurant the gorbals, and mr. colicchio’s vegetable risotto at craftsteak in las vegas, so i have an idea of what the consistency and taste should be. what is so damn difficult?

karl, my mushroom guy, at the hollywood farmers market had a wide array of mushrooms sunday, so i thought i’d try my hand at a wild mushroom risotto. i chose black trumpets, chanterelles, and shiitakes. i compiled the list of ingredients and amounts after the fact, so some are approximations, and others are optional or interchangeable. for instance, i grabbed what i thought was frozen vegetable stock from my freezer and as it melted i realized i had in fact taken out a container of lobster stock. i happened to have tarragon and savory on hand, but sage and thyme could also work, and white wine can be used instead of red.

ingredients:

  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, big ones cut up, leave small ones whole
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh savory, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • s+p
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

directions:

heat the stock so it is warmish-hot.

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sauté about 1/3 of the garlic and onion in some olive oil for about 3-5 minutes or until translucent. add the mushrooms, butter, tarragon and savory and continue cooking for a few minutes until the mushrooms have just browned. add some s+p to taste. set aside and keep warm.

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coat the bottom of and heavy bottom pan, such as a dutch oven, with olive oil and sauté the remaining onion and garlic until translucent as well. add the rice and stir quickly allowing the rice to be coated with the oil and opaque, about a minute. apparently this cooks the starchy coating and keeps the rice from sticking. add the wine and stir until it is almost evaporated.

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add the stock, a ladle at a time, and stir until just absorbed. then add the next ladle of stock and repeat each time allowing the stock to be incorporated until your stock is gone. stirring continuously should help cook the rice evenly and not stick to the bottom of the pan. i noticed a couple ladles near the end of adding the stock the rice still seemed to be a bit al dente, and also the rice and stock seemed to be making a creamy saucy consistency. by the time the final ladle had been incorporated the rice was perfectly cooked and not mushy. the risotto shouldn’t be too thick, but also not runny. it should almost ooze.

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stir in the mushrooms, parmesan and parsley. add s+p to taste.

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serve immediately.

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makes 2-3 servings.

i must say even though i was a bit skeptical the lobster stock might not be the right choice when i was defrosting it, it turned out to be a really nice compliment to the earthy mushrooms. granted i know i only made a small batch, i’m not working in the confines of a kitchen foreign to me, and i was able to use my own equipment and tools, but this just wasn’t that hard, and it turned out really tasty. i certainly doubt i would get eliminated on an episode of top chef for this dish, and who knows perhaps i would win?

today i woke up with a touch of a sore throat, my head was stuffy, and my eyes a bit goopy. ugh. did i just catch the cold that has been going around? great.

i discovered blossom vietnamese restaurant pretty early on living in downtown los angeles. since it is only a few blocks away, and has reasonably priced, quality, tasty food, i go there often. a few years ago, i got the start of what was in the makings of being a pretty bad cold. i hardly ever get sick, but when i do all i want is hot, steamy, spicy, brothy chicken soup. i remembered that blossom had phở ga on the menu, so i got on my trusty steed and biked up there.

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i must have sounded worse than i thought, or sniffled a bunch when i ordered, because the man taking my order asked if i was sick? then asked if i liked ginger and garlic? he said he would put some extra in, and that i should add it to the broth, and that it will help me feel better. i had heard of the wonders of garlic and ginger in the past, and i knew homemade broths are very healthy for you, but had pretty much thought that chicken soup wasn’t going to cure my cold, it would just make me feel better and comfort me. i was wrong. the next day my cold was gone.

good broth will resurrect the dead. -south american proverb

the chicken is juicy and never over-cooked. the broth is steamy and flavorful. the bean sprouts, thai basil, jalapeño, lime, ginger and garlic are fresh and plentiful.

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all together with a little hoisin and sriracha hot sauce makes a big bowl of delicious medicine.

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so today when i woke up feeling crummy, i got on my trusty steed once again, went a few blocks west up winston street, and ordered what i now call ‘the cold killer’: phở ga with extra ginger and garlic. needless to say i am already feeling better.

blossom vietnamese • 426 s. main street, la, ca 90013 • 323-623-1973

it has become a bit of a tradition to have an ‘orphans’ thanksgiving at my place for a few years now. i start with the usual list of friends, but anyone is invited, and there are always a few last minute add ons. this year it tipped the scales with almost 20 guests. from shopping at the farmers market all the way to the leftovers, here is the feast in photos:

the farmers market fairy delivered this 18+ lb beauty on monday:

i did a majority of my shopping at the wednesday morning santa monica farmers market:

on my way to the market, kcrw had a wonderful segment with christopher kimball, of america’s test kitchen and cook’s illustrated, talking about a julia child thanksgiving. of course he spoke of her simplicity and her use of the best ingredients. it was just the motivation and inspiration i needed. this is the beautiful and colorful loot i came home with:

the pie prep: cranberries, rhubarb, and roasted pumpkin.

the veggie prep: roasted winter vegetables, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and creamed corn with crispy bacon.

the free range willie bird all buttered up, stuffed, and carved to perfection:

the buffet: the aforementioned creamed corn with crispy bacon, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted winter veggies, along with sausage + fennel stuffing, and gravy. my guests brought sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, salad, cranberries and homemade bread.

the table as people were plating up their food:

the pies: cranberry rhubarb (as well as, a crisp from the extra fruit) and pumpkin. not shown: pumpkin cheesecake and paleo pumpkin bread.

the dead soldiers the next day:

a few of us took off for big bear the next afternoon to just chill out (and digest) for a couple of days. these were some of the leftovers by the fire at the little cabin in the woods the next night:

i made stock from the carcass yesterday, and there was just enough turkey leftover to make soup today. recipe to come…

note: more (professional) photos from the evening can be found at rafiel chait photography. the photos above were just taken by me with my crummy iphone and hipstamatic.

rhubarb brings me back to my grandma’s homemade crisps. i tried my hand at a strawberry rhubarb pie once, but it turned out a bit soupy (i blame the juicy strawberries from harry’s berries.) i decided to skip the berries this time, and make 4 mini pies, using 5-inch tin pans that i got at surfas. i just happened to have some fresh thyme on hand and thought it might be an interesting compliment with the tart rhubarb. since i have always wanted to try using lard in my crust, and i had picked some up at lindy + grundy when i was there last, i substituted it for the shortening in the dough recipe.

ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 1 double-crust pie dough, divided into 8 discs
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp turbinado sugar
  • cinnamon

directions:

this is stupid easy. toss the thyme with the chopped rhubarb.

combine the white and brown sugar with the flour. roll out 4 of the disks of dough and place in the tins.

put a couple tablespoons of the sugar flour mixture in the bottom of each.

divide the rhubarb between the tins, and top with 4 pieces of butter on each.

put several more tablespoon of the mixture over each, letting it get in between the rhubarb. (i did end up with some mixture left over.)

roll out the remaining 4 disks and top each. crimp the edges making sure they don’t hang over too much.

brush the egg over the top, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and lightly dust with cinnamon. cut four slits in the top to allow for ventilation.

put them on a cookie sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven at 450˚ for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350˚ and bake for another 45 minutes. let them cool on a wire rack.

parts of two of my crusts fell off early in the baking, due to hanging over the edge too much. i was able to save them, and i’m sure just as delicious, but just look a bit messy. the other two were perfect.

…and i had leftover rhubarb to make a crisp to boot!

i now have copious amounts of rhubarb treats, and kicking myself for not picking up vanilla ice cream. grrrr.

notes: i prefer my rhubarb on the tart side, so i’ll probably use less sugar next time. i couldn’t taste the thyme, whereas others could, so adjust to your taste.

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