let’s be honest, i am a card carrying omnivore, and with the exception of maybe eggplant and okra, i love most food and will eat just about anything. that being said, i am also health and environmentally conscious, so i am always looking to find different ways to limit my meat intake, but also not lose the all important protein factor.

eat food. not too much. mostly plants. -michael pollan, in defense of food

i have always loved curries, whether it is indian or southeast asian, and often think of them as being, at the very least, a vegetarian option, so it was easily enough to make one vegan, plus i am always looking to incorporate more turmeric into my diet. also, i think because of the spices and coconut milk this recipe has a lot of flavor, and with the lentils and peas you get the protein. i don’t miss the meat.

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ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small cauliflower (with leaves, if possible), chopped in the small florets and pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-sized disks
  • 2 cups baby potatoes, cut in half or bite-sized
  • salt + pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp fresh turmeric, finely grated
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp madras curry
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste, i like it spicy)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock, more if needed
  • 1/2 cup mixed lentils (any kind will work just adjust cooking time accordingly)
  • 1 can (400ml) coconut milk
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

instructions:

heat a generous amount of olive oil over medium high heat. it should be enough to cover the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven. i use my 7.25 qt le crueset. add the garlic and onions and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. stir in the cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes with a few generous sprinkles of salt, and several grinds of fresh ground pepper.

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let cook about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies start to brown a bit, and a fond starts to form on the bottom of the pan. add the ginger, turmeric, and tomato paste. mix to combine.

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add the dried spices and mix in well until all of the veggies are covered.

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add the vegetable stock, and use a wooden spoon to scrap the fond off the bottom of the pan. add the lentils, bring to a boil, and then add the coconut milk. bring to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are done, about 20-40 minutes depending. it should be the consistency of a thick stew, but you can add a little more vegetable stock if it thickens too much, or would prefer it a little more soup like. add salt to taste.

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add the lemon zest, juice and peas at the end, allowing enough time for them to warm, about 5 minutes. stir in the cilantro off heat.

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serve with basmati rice.

makes about 8 cups.

this is my go to salad that i make to bring to work for lunches. it is simple to prep on a sunday and put together quickly during the week, plus i can eat it five days in a row and not get tired of it. i get my little gems from the garden of at the hollywood farmers market, but any sturdy romaine or lettuce like it would work just as well. i haven’t listed amounts mostly because i’ve always made salads and dressings to taste.

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ingredients:

  • little gems
  • crumbled gorgonzola
  • unsalted whole pecans
  • butter
  • cayenne pepper
  • honey
  • dijon mustard
  • apple cider vinegar (bragg’s raw unfiltered)
  • olive oil

first toast the pecans over medium heat until slightly browner. i use a cast iron skillet, and do a big batch at a time.

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add a pat of butter (1/2 tbsp?), stir making sure to coat all the pecans. sprinkle cayenne pepper on them, and add honey to make them gooey but not dripping too much. stir around to make sure all of the pecans are coated.

let them cool on some aluminum foil while you make the dressing.

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i start by adding the honey, mustard, and a splash of apple cider vinegar (about a tbsp of each), and whisk that together first, which helps the sticky honey and mustard incorporate easier into the dressing. then i add a bit more acv, and then drizzle in the olive oil. i start by using roughly a 1:3 ratio and go from there. obviously add more honey and mustard to taste. i use a handy bella cucina mini blender, but you can certainly use a whisk and get your arm workout in at the same time.

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tear apart the little gem leaves, add some crumbled gorgonzola and glazed pecans…

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…and toss with the honey mustard dressing.

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to complete my lunch, i usually dice up leftover spicy garlic + ginger chicken to put on top.

 

 

hat tip to my friend arik for this recipe. he is one of my best friends, and among many other amazing things, a great culinary wizard. he made this dish for me years ago, and it is still a favorite to this day. i often make it to top a salad of little gems with spicy glazed pecans, gorgonzola + honey mustard dressing, but it also pairs well with a side of cole slaw and mexican grilled corn. although, this recipe uses boneless skinless breasts, cooked on a grill pan indoors, i have marinated whole chicken parts and put them on the grill outside, and has turned out delicious as well.

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ingredients:

  • boneless and skinless chicken breasts (sliced into cutlets if too thick)
  • garlic, at least one clove per breast, sliced thin
  • fresh ginger, at least one tbsp per pair of breasts, minced
  • limes, the juice of one per pair of breasts
  • serrano chile, one per pair of breasts, sliced thin
  • cilantro (optional. i had some on hand, so added it.)
  • olive oil, enough to coat
  • salt + pepper, to taste

sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the breasts. put all of the ingredients in a gallon ziplock bag, making sure to distribute the marinade evenly. place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

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heat up a grill pan if you have one, but i’m sure a regular skillet would do the trick too. i like to add the bits of garlic, ginger and serrano to the pan as well. depending on the thickness of the breasts, cook each side 5-10 minutes. once out of the pan, let them rest for 5 minutes to keep in the juices.

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note: i’ve made this with kumquats instead of the lime and serrano, for a less spicy but still citrusy version.

 

 

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every once in a while you have the meal of a lifetime. in the three short years that alma has been open, i have eaten here only four times, and each time i went was one of those meals. sure there were mistakes, delays in timing, a dish off just slightly, but man was i astounded that every time i went in i left with my mind blown by some sort of delicacy that even if i had the recipe i was sure i couldn’t reproduce. this is culinary mastery at its best. tonight was no different.

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i had heard of the troubles alma was having via social media, and quickly donated to their indiegogo crowd funding site. i chose the ‘dinner for one’ perk, and a ‘tote bag.’ this place was too important to the downtown los angeles cuisine, and more importantly…its community, to let it go away. it raised upwards of 50k, but sadly even with many efforts to stay open, it will close october 24.

i have often thought, if i were to open a restaurant it would be a place like alma: small, personal, farm to table, community driven, and sustainable. the same person greeting you at the door could be pouring your wine and taking your order, but also expediting the kitchen, and even sometimes preparing your dish. the kitchen is small, and the prep has to be thought out precisely. there is no walk-in freezer, actually to my knowledge there is no freezer, and only a very small fridge to hold what has to be kept cool until made that evening. i have been there when the kitchen is shutting down, cleaning out, and throwing away the last bits of mis-en-place, and it seems extremely minimal. impressive.

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i will truly miss this place, and rumors of another alma in the future makes me giddy.

*i must say, even though they knew i was redeeming my perk (i would only have to pay tax), the staff treated me like any other diner, and because of that they got better (and then some) than twenty percent and not just on the $14.85 tax i owed them.

just in time for the labor day…otherwise known as national grill + drink with your friends + family day!

this baby back rib recipe is about as easy as it gets, and although it calls to finish them off in the oven under the broiler, there is no reason you can’t put them on a hot grill to get that extra added char. i was given the recipe from my friend linda, the farmers market fairy, who says she jotted it down from the chalkboard at mccall’s meat and fish co. a few years ago. both sources i trust in all things food, so you will not be disappointed. i get my baby backs from peads and barnetts at the hollywood farmers market, and they are outstanding.

as far as the sauce, everybody has an opinion on bbq sauce, and i will not try to sway those that want their sauce the way they want it. this is how i like mine: tomatoey, tangy, spicy with just a bit of smoke. the base of the recipe comes from a family friend, who’s sauce i had the pleasure of having slathered over perfectly grilled chicken wings at my stepmom’s 60th birthday in upstate new york a couple of years ago. i was fortunate enough to have him share his recipe with me. i made a few adjustments. the biggest being that i chose to make my own heinz chili sauce (i prefer to use as little processed food as possible), which i got a cheat from the spice guru at food.com. i made a few other slight adjustments in regards to spices mostly because of what i had on hand in my kitchen, but for the most part i give credit to nick fox for what i consider my favorite bbq sauce.

the ribs:

  • rack(s) of baby back ribs
  • apple cider vinegar
  • dry rub of choice (i use a combo of penzeys bbq 3000 and a friend’s special mix called bacon sugar)
  • salt

splash a tablespoon (or so) of apple cider vinegar on each rack and massage in. let them sit for about 10-15 mins.

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rub in a couple tablespoons of your favorite dry rub and sprinkle with salt.

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wrap in plastic wrap, and then in foil.

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place on a baking sheet in the oven for 3-4 hours at 225ᴼ. unwrap and peel away the plastic being careful of the steam. the plastic will be melty so make sure not to leave gooey bits behind.

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slather on your favorite bbq sauce (see recipe below).

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put them under the broiler for a few minutes on each side until they have a bit of char. warning: keep an eye on them, and do not get distracted.

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cut them up between the bones, and by all means slather on more sauce.

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the sauce:

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as written and sent to me, with my adjustments and changes in parenthesis.

  • 2 1/2 cups heinz chili sauce, or 2 bottles (i doubled the spice guru’s recipe at food.com to equal 2 bottles, using garlic instead of onion flakes, and spicy instead of sweet chili powder)
  • 2 tsp tabasco (scottie b’s chipotle fever smokin bbq spicy pepper sauce)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp tarragon (dried)
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (large)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (sugar + molasses)
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water

combine in a pot and bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer 30 minutes. strain through a fine mesh strainer.

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makes about 4 cups

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photo by rafiel chait

vito is not my uncle, but i think everybody wants an uncle like him. i did have the pleasure of meeting him prior to the wedding of his nephew (don) and his soon to be bride (lauren), who are two dear friends of mine, late last year. he made a huge batch of his meatballs for the occasion, and did a demonstration on how to make them to a few lucky bastards who were out at the house my friends were to be married at earlier in the week. of course, i wanted to be there for that, but sadly, i was stuck at work. thankfully, my friend the groom made a video of it, and i am forever grateful.

this video is not only helpful to see how the meatballs are created, but adds a touch of the innuendo that runs in the family, and also shows uncle vito making the meatballs in a manner that i truly believe is the way to cook…by feel, by taste, by smell, by love, and most importantly, by your family and friends.

dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.

-julia child

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the sauce:

  • splash of wine
  • 1 can of crushed red tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (14 oz)
  • 1 3/4 cans of water (using the crushed tomato can)
  • 1 tsp of parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, + more to fry the tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cans of tomato paste (6 oz each)

in a large pot combine add all the ingredients in order, except the tomato paste. put on medium-high heat, stir and bring to a decent simmer.

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meanwhile start the meatballs. once you have mixed the meat for the balls, fry the tomato paste in some olive oil for a couple of minutes until the oil is incorporated into the paste.

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add it to the sauce and stir, plus a little more sugar if needed, but i found the sauce pretty sweet as is. reduce to a slow simmer while you make, roll and fry the balls.

the meatballs:

  • 5 pounds of ground beef (80/20)
  • 7 eggs
  • splash of olive oil + more to fry balls in
  • 2 pounds of italian sausage, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, + more for adding
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs, + more for adding
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder, + more for adding
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil, + more for adding

start with half of the ground beef and crumble into a large pot. add the rest of the ingredients. then crumble the remaining ground beef as well. add another big dash of parmesan, breadcrumbs, basil and garlic powder.

then dig in with both hands. add a splash of olive oil to grease the wheels. ‘pound it, push it down, keep mixing it well…from the bottom, and then push it.’ do this til firm, but not wet. if it feels too wet, add breadcrumbs…i ended up adding about 1/4 cup more.

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squeeze ice cream scoop sized balls (about 2 inches?) 10 times by hand, and then roll in your palms. i ended up with just a little tad bit more than 40 balls, so i used the remaining into a smaller tester ‘veet ball’.

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add a good layer of olive oil to a large fry pan, add meatballs (8-10 per pan, they can be snug), and over medium-high heat brown and turn. careful not to cook them too quickly. let them brown nicely, then add to the sauce. you can continue to use the same pan for the next batch. i found i didn’t need to add additional oil, since the fat and juices of the previous balls worked fine to fry the remaining balls.

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on this particular night i made linguini and veetballs, but i got some nice italian baguette to make meatball sandos for lunch the next day as well:

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i found this will make about 35-45 balls, depending on size, plus of course one tester veet ball.

• on a sad note, we lost uncle vito this past week. i didn’t know he was sick, and only found out when my friend posted his wonderful video of his uncle vito making his amazing meatballs. i feel so fortunate that i was able to meet him, and now pass his recipe on to you, so we can all enjoy. RIP UNCLE VITO!
 

a big part of my philosophy on cooking and eating is of course using products and produce that are organic, sustainable and local, but also unprocessed, or what i like to think of as ‘what would laura ingalls wilder do?’ she lived in a day where everything was made from scratch, all foods were basically what we know as organic today, and definitely pre-GMO.

she also didn’t grow up with processed snacks such as cheez-its in her cupboard like i did as a young girl. granted the list of ingredients in cheez-its isn’t nearly as long as many processed chips, crackers or snacks in the same demographic, and they don’t have the evil monosodium glutamate in them, but i have definitely cut way back on my intake of these addictive lil cheesy nibbles due to their processed nature. of course, when craft services puts out the little single serving bags on the table at work, they are very hard to resist, and i usually tuck one away in my set bag to eat in guilt later when i can blame it on the ‘late hours’ or ‘i’m tired’ or ‘i don’t want another fucking piece of fruit’.

so, when my upstairs neighbor, who is a chef, posted a picture on instagram of homemade cheez-its, i about lost my shit, because i fucking love cheez-its!

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thankfully she was willing to share her recipe.

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ingredients:

  • 9 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 7.5 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 2-4 tbsp ice water
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

directions:

in the bowl of a food processor add the flour, baking powder, paprika and salt. pulse to combine. add the butter and cheese, and pulse until very well combined. add 2 tbsp of ice water and pulse until the dough is just wet enough to come together when squeezed. add up to 2 tbsp more water if necessary.

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divide the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap. press each half of dough into a flat square, wrap well, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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working with one square at a time, roll the dough out to a scant 1/8-inch thick. using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the dough into 3/4-inch wide strips, and then in the other direction to make 3/4-inch squares.

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use a wooden skewer, or chop stick, to poke a hole in the center of each square.

transfer squares to a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze the dough until firm, about 10-15 minutes. do the same with the other square of dough.

preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

brush the squares with the egg white and sprinkle with salt. gently break the squares apart and transfer the parchment onto a different baking sheet that hasn’t been in the freezer.

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bake until puffed, set, and browned on the bottom. make sure to bake them well, so that the finished crackers are crisp. (completely frozen dough may take extra time.) start checking them at 15 mins, but can take up to 20-30 mins.

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transfer the parchment with the crackers to a cooling rack. store cooled crackers in an airtight container.

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makes about 5 cups.

thanks to chef jamie lauren for the recipe, and my renewed addiction. 

another episode of ‘cleanin’ out my fridge’: the brussels sprouts edition.

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yesterday after my trip to the farmers market, i was putting away my veggies, and came across a bag of these cruciferous vegetables from a couple weeks ago that i needed to use.

i have a few different ways i like to prepare these wee cabbages. simply roasting them with olive oil, salt and pepper is easy enough, but recently i have been slicing them thin, sautéing with olive oil, shallot, fresh lemon juice, tossing with pecorino romano, toasted sliced almonds, and finishing with a little bit of red wine vinegar. this was my inspiration for this soup.

of course, when i am cooking from the hip, i often don’t actually write down amounts as i go, or take photos, so the list of ingredients will be approximations, and you only get the one photo.

ingredients:

  • 3 cups brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1 leek, white part cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced small
  • 3 celery stalks, diced small
  • 4 carrots, diced small
  • 2 tsp fresh savory, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups stock (i used homemade turkey stock)
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped coarse (optional)
  • cream, to taste
  • salt + pepper, to taste

garnish:

  • toasted sliced almonds
  • pecorino romano, grated
  • chives, minced
  • red wine vinegar, drizzle

in a large dutch oven, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. add the brussels sprouts, some salt and pepper, and cook until soft and browning. add the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, savory and a little more olive oil, salt and pepper. combine and allow to cook down a bit. add the wine, and scrape off any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. add the stock, bring to a boil, and then let simmer over medium-low heat until all the veggies are soft. this is when i added the spinach. honestly, i doubt that it added much flavor wise, but i had a little bit in the fridge that was just beginning to wilt, and thought it might add a little green color back into the soup, which it did. once the spinach becomes soft, but hasn’t lost it’s color, i turned off the heat. i used a hand blender to purée the soup until creamy. (i’m sure a regular blender or food processor would do the same thing.) slowly add cream to your liking.

garnish with almonds, pecorino romano, chives and drizzle with red wine vinegar. enjoy!

serves 4.

the first corn of the season started showing up at the farmers market a couple weeks ago, which means any cookout, BBQ, or gathering that has a grill, i will be asked to make mexican grilled corn. happily i will abide, because it is so damn good. i first came across this recipe in the october 2009 issue of cook’s illustrated, and without a doubt it is the number one dish my friends ask me to make during the summer months.

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ingredients:

  • 6 ears of corn, husks + silks removed
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, minced
  • 1-2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 oz pecorino romano cheese, about 1/2 cup
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil for cooking grate

 

mix together the mayo, sour cream, cilantro, garlic, 1/4 tsp chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, lime juice and cheese in a bowl.

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add the remaining 1/2 tsp of chili powder and salt to the vegetable oil and whisk together. brush this oil mixture all over the corn.

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once you have heated your grill to hot, wipe the grate with a paper towel wad and tongs dipped in vegetable oil. put the corn directly on the grill and shut the lid. check after about 5 minutes, or if you start hearing it pop, and rotate so all sides get brown, about 10-15 minutes.

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transfer to a platter or dish, and slather on the sauce.

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this is a perfect side to bring to, or make for any BBQ or grilling event you might be having for this memorial day. please take note that this monday is not our national day to have a cookout, but to honor and remember the men and women who have died while serving in our armed services. peace + love.

 

 

 

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i have had this blog for 3 years now, and although julia child is a huge influence in my cooking, i started wild, fresh + tasty a few months after my dad died.

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he was an artist, writer, blogger and truly enjoyed cooking. perhaps this is sort of an homage to him? i had always loved watching him in the kitchen, but what i loved most was listening to him whistle while he worked. usually he would be playing some sort of music (coltrane, dylan, vanzandt…whatevs!), and (in my eyes) moving in the kitchen like he was gene kelly.

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i think he would have been the biggest fan of my blog, but also given me the most insight…in writing, in cooking, and…kicked me in the ass to post more. i miss him.

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