Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm Off to Turkey!

I’ve stuffed cabbages.

I’ve stuffed peppers.

I’ve stuffed mushrooms.

I’ve stuffed zucchinis.

I’ve stuffed eggplants.

I’ve stuffed chilis.

I’ve stuffed dates.

On some dates, I stuffed my bra.

But I have never stuffed a grape leaf.

So I'm off to Turkey to learn how.

When I'm done stuffing my face,

I'll be back with photos and other stuff!

See you soon!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Cream Puff Crazy

When I first moved to Los Angeles in my twenties, I took a job as a telemarketer until I could find a job at an ad agency. For a short time, I dated a fellow telemarketer there, whom I’ll call C.P. He was smart, funny and neurotic—just like Woody Allen, without the talent. Even with his nerdy glasses and short, wiry hair, he had an intense magnetism that really drew me in.

One day, he told me he was going to make me these fabulous cream puffs and that he was thinking about going into the cream puff-making business. He also mentioned that he had been 100 pounds heavier in a previous life.

Then one night, out of thin air, he said, “I’m thinking about getting fat again.” Wow. I knew he could be unpredictable, but imagine my surprise when I heard that paunch line. As the air thickened with his bloated bluster, I wondered what I was supposed to do with that little tidbit? Should I say, “That’s flab-ulous!” or “Enjoy your new heft?” Should I try to talk him out of it? “Aw, you don’t really want to be a rotunda. You’re just down in the dumps and feeling dumpy.” The fact that someone could choose obesity as if he were deciding to grow a beard was, well, a sign that this guy wasn’t dealing with a fully stocked pantry.

Shortly after that, C.P. came to work acting all David Koresh-Waco-possessed. He started going from desk to desk, dishing out five-course diatribes on each person’s flaws. He had told me once that he’d attended EST seminars, and now I could see the fruits of his higher-consciousness labors. EST taught you to speak the truth (but if you wanted tact, that was a different group).

As he voraciously chewed people out in his creepy, my-word-is-the-gospel way, I got under my desk, seeking refuge. I thought this guy was about to go postal, and if those were just his co-workers, what was in store for me? When he wouldn’t leave, the boss finally pushed him out the door and locked it behind him. That’s when everyone gathered around my desk and said I could come out now. It was safe to come out!

That was the last time I saw C.P. and to this day, he is what I think of when I hear the words “Cream Puff.” But a profiterole? That delicate, cream-filled pastry with chocolate sauce that I so lovingly devoured in Paris? Ooh la la. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sautéed Rainbow Chard

This California chard has deep, earthy overtones.
It may not get you sauced, but when you down this sparkling varietal, you'll feel an instant vitamin rush from its many nutrients.

This colorful, rustic dish makes a crowd-pleasing side or a hearty main course when you add cannelini, garbanzo or fava beans and serve it over a bowl of creamy polenta. Sometimes I simmer the chard and beans with a can of diced tomatoes, Italian seasonings and fennel seeds for a richer, stew-like version. But since I found this pretty rainbow variety at the farmer’s market, I wanted to leave it au naturel to preserve its bright colors. You can see that when cooked, though, it’s not the psychedelic superstar it once was. But then, who is?


1 bunch chard, stalks and leaves cut up

½ large onion, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 ½ TBSP olive oil



Makes about 2 servings

Sauté onion until golden. Add cut-up chard stalks and garlic. Cook several minutes until partially cooked. Add cut-up chard leaves and stir, coating greens well with oil. Simmer until cooked throughout. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ode to a Fig Leaf

Such mystery that hides beneath
The green maternal shapely sheath
You cover up a modest gal
Or is your fig a femme fatale?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ms. Splenda

As I watched her pour a packet of Splenda into her coffee, I practically had a conniption. “What are you doing?” I said. “That stuff is poison! I read that it actually makes you gain weight by screwing with your metabolism and ruining your body’s ability to count calories. Why do you use that s**t when you know it causes cancer?”

My friend gave me a cockeyed look and said, “I don’t live in your world.” As her words hung in the unsweetened air, I said, “Look, it’s no picnic for me either. You think I like being mayor of Doomville?”

She was afraid she had offended me, but she had fueled an epiphany. Was it possible for me to not live in my world too? Could I leave Doomville and move to Mayberry? Could I bust out of these cerebral walls and live a carefree, oblivious existence, devoid of all common sense, empirical evidence, scientific data and the ability to recognize advertising hype?

“My grandmother lived to be 97,” Ms. Splenda said, all cocky. “She ate bad stuff and never exercised. It’s all about the genes.” Ah, the genes. That’s where it went so wrong. Mine were high-strung and skin-tight on both sides. If only I could get new ones. Stonewashed, relaxed-fit genes that wouldn’t fall apart or fray when rubbed the wrong way. They’re making new scientific discoveries every day. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

And to think that if Ms. Splenda had put evaporated cane juice, honey, stevia or refined sugar into her beverage, I wouldn’t be sitting here planning my getaway. But now I want out.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Roasted Green Beans, Peppers and Garlic

Roasted veggies are a no-brainer, even when you use your bean.
This may not be the most complicated culinary offering, but that’s the beauty of it. Well, that and the gorgeous colors.

I love fresh green beans, and when paired with yellow wax beans and bright, roasted peppers cut to match the beans, your dinner is ready for framing. Lately I’ve been roasting a few pans of various colored bell peppers along with some garlic cloves to keep on hand. They’ll last a couple of weeks in a jar in the fridge, and they just get sweeter, richer and juicier with age. You can put them on anything from green or grain-based salads, quiches, frittatas, omelettes, pizzas, pastas, quesadillas, sandwiches—you name it. And the juice at the bottom of the jar is to die for.

Like most of my recipes, this one is not set in stone. Except for baking, I'm not really the measuring type, so you can add more olive oil or change the ingredient ratios to your own taste.


½ pound green beans

½ pound yellow wax beans

1 each red, orange and yellow bell pepper (save half for later use)

6 cloves whole, unpeeled garlic (save 4 for later use)

2 TBSP olive oil



Two large cookie sheets

Preheat oven to 425˚. Cut peppers into long strips. Mix them together with the garlic cloves, half of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl. Coat well. Place peppers and garlic on a cookie sheet and make sure the pieces are not overlapping (use another pan if you need to). Mix the rest of the oil with the beans, salt and pepper to taste, and lay them out on another cookie sheet.

Roast for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn once when they are brown and caramelized. When cool enough to touch, slide two garlic cloves out of their skins, then mince and toss with the beans and peppers. Store the leftover peppers and garlic cloves in a jar in fridge.

As a finishing touch, you can add a splash of balsamic vinegar or some lemon zest or garnish with toasted nuts, fresh herbs or whatever strikes your fancy. I usually keep it pretty plain so I can really taste the veggies.