Posted by Rob Eshman
I promised a great dessert to go with my local, sustainable, non-agri-business, healthy Passover meal, and here it is. You can make this for many people very quickly, and it uses no margarine or that sludge they call non-dairy creamer. God did not free us from slavery so we could poison ourselves with Mocha Mix and margarine…
The first recipe I adapted from Joan Nathan, which she adapted from “Dulce lo Vivas,” by Ana Bensadón (Ediciones Martínez Roca). Joan’s recipe uses olive oil. I substitute the freshest nut oil I can find, usually walnut or hazelnut at the local farmers market.
Chocolate and Nut Oil Mousse
Time: 30 minutes plus 24 hours’ refrigeration
11 ounces bittersweet (60 percent cacao) chocolate
8 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh walnut or hazelnut oil
2 tablespoons kosher for Passover brandy, marc or grappa
1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate over low heat. Cool slightly. Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until light. Whisk in olive oil, brandy and melted chocolate.
2. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, whisking until stiff but not dry.
3. Fold whites into chocolate mixture so that no white streaks remain. Spoon into an 8- or 10-cup serving bowl or divide among 8 or 10 dessert cups or glasses. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
And here’s the second, a Passover Chocolate Torte adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chocolat, minus the orange.
here’s the recipe I use, adapted from Cocolat cook book. I’ve made this for 15 years, and it is very hard to screw up. You can link to the recipe here, but note my changes: I do not use orange in the flavoring (yech) and I substitute one-quarter cup olive oil or nut oil for the butter. If you are serving a non-meat meal or don’t care about such things, stick with the butter.
Chocolate Passover Torte
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
9 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray sides of 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper.
2. Pulse walnuts and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in food processor until very finely ground, being careful walnuts don’t become a paste; place in medium bowl. Wipe excess oil from food processor. Pulse chocolate and 1 tablespoon of the sugar until mixture resembles crumbs ranging from very finely chopped to 1/4-inch pieces. Add to nuts, along with orange peel and salt; stir to combine.
3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until egg whites are stiff and glossy but not dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently scrape into large wide bowl.
4. Pour half of the chocolate mixture over egg whites; fold in until nearly incorporated. Repeat with remaining chocolate mixture, folding just until incorporated. Place in springform pan; spread gently to level.
5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until torte is puffed and golden brown on top and springs back when pressed gently with fingers. (A toothpick inserted in center will emerge moist and stained with a little melted chocolate, but not coated with batter.) Cake may crack slightly. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Slide thin knife or spatula around sides of pan; cool completely. Serve at room temperature. (Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)
6. Meanwhile, beat all cream ingredients in medium bowl at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Serve with cake. Store whipping cream in refrigerator.
By the way, here is more or less my menu this year:
Apple and Wine Charoset
Homemade Halibut confit with front yard Artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, lucques olives, caper berries, ‘eshman acre’ eggs and Spanish sea salt
Chicken Soup with Dill Matzo Balls
Grilled Young Chicken with Meyer Lemon and Green Garlic
Potato and Italian Dandelion Torta
Roasted Asparagus with Fig Balsamic Vinegar
Blood Orange, beets and Butter Lettuce Salad
Walnut Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Torte
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March 26, 2010 | 11:45 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
The three things I find hardest to give up on passover are pizza, beer and tofu. Okay, mostly just beer and pizza. Oh, and scotch.
But this salt and pepper fried tofu, which I had for the first time last night at Hop Woo at the corner of Olympic and Sepulveda, is going to be hard to stop craving. I have never had better fried tofu. In fact, this may be one of the best tofu dishes I have ever had. And at a strip mall Chinese restaurant on the Westside—go figure.
It treats tofu like the classic shrimp or crab salt and pepper stir fry, with plenty of sliced chili as well. Crispy, light and addictive. And $7.95. Fill up before Pesach.
March 25, 2010 | 11:50 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Just a quick post, but I didn’t want to let Passover go by without pointing out the BEST PASSOVER BRISKET RECIPE EVER.
My neighbor Holly Wiland makes it, and wrote about it in a the September 14, 2006 issue of The Jewish Journal, and I’m reprinting here, because, trust me, it is a show-stopper, a crowd-pleaser, a breath-taker. Of course my recommendation is that you seek out a kosher, organic, free-range source for the meat, but I leave that to you.
September 14, 2006
Meat meets lemon—brisket gone wild!
BY HOLLY WILAND
One day last month, my husband returned from Trader Joe’s carrying a large slab of brisket.
“I invited our neighbors for dinner,” he announced, “and they’re kosher.” I can cook, but my only attempt at a nice bubbie-style brisket took two days and was a memorable disaster. I’m sure it was digestible, it just wasn’t chewable. I have suffered brisket-phobia ever since.
I had about five hours to get something suitably special on the table. So, I abandoned all my brisket preconceptions, took a deep breath and thought, “Do what you love, do what you know.”
The result was extraordinary.
What I know is how to combine the cooking techniques of my family—Swedish (non-Jewish) Americans given to light but hearty flavors—with all the Mediterranean flavors that have become part of any serious California cook’s repertoire: olives, olive oil, fennel and preserved lemons.
Preserved lemons and brisket? Yes, those salty tart gems are crucial to this dish. I use homemade, but you’ll need three to four weeks advanced preparation for my recipe (Paula Wolfert offers a one-week version in her book, “Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco”). You can also buy preserved lemons at specialty Middle Eastern markets and at Surfas in Culver City.
Couscous and a little green salad with oranges are all you’ll need to complete the meal. For our dessert, I stuffed halved nectarines with a mixture of crumbled store-bought amaretti cookies, chopped almonds and honey.
The honey makes this an ideal Rosh Hashanah meal. And the amaretti cookies were, of course, kosher and pareve. Amazing how fast a Swedish American can catch on to these things.
Brisket with Fennel and Olives
1 3-pound brisket (I use a point cut)
2 large fennel bulbs, cored, trimmed and very thinly sliced. Include any nice fronds.
1 very large Vidalia, Walla Walla or other sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
1 cup mixed green and black olives (Greek, kalamata, etc.)
3 preserved lemons, diced, and a couple tablespoons of their juice
1/2 cup water or a mixture of water and dry white wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Chopped Italian parsley
Choose your heaviest dutch oven, or use enameled cast iron. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On the stovetop, bring the pan to a medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and brown the brisket on both sides, not more than five to seven minutes in total. Remove the meat, and toss the fennel and onions in the pan, adding a little olive oil if necessary. Put the lid on and let them sweat a little. When the vegetables soften, stir in half the olives and one of the diced lemons. Nestle the meat in the mixture and add the 1/2 cup of liquid. Cover tightly, and bake for three to three and a half hours. Add the rest of the lemons, their juice and the olives, return to oven 30 minutes or so.
When ready to serve, remove meat and slice across the grain. Serve on a pla tter surrounded with the vegetables and drizzle the pan juices over all. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Lemons to preserve, as thin skinned as possible
Additional lemons for juice
Cut the lemons in quarters from the tip to the stem end without cutting all the way through. Pack the quarters with salt, rubbing it in and close them back up. Place tightly together in a crock or wide mouthed glass jar. Cover with fresh lemon juice and seal tightly, leaving it in a cool dry place for 3-4 weeks. Check every few days to be sure the lemon juice still covers the lemons completely, and top it off if you need to. When ready, remove anything objectionable from the top of the lemon juice and refrigerate.
March 17, 2010 | 10:08 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
In my cover story this week, I write about infusing Passover with the flavors of spring. Here are those flavors:
Gefilte Lettuce (Ceviche-Stuffed Butter Lettuce)
Let’s fac e it. If you grow up with jarred gefilte fish, you may eventually develop a taste for it. After all, there are a few Swedes who genuinely like lutefisk. But the idea here is to replace canned gefilte fish with something that actually doesn’t make small children and non-Jews run away, and that reflects California’s local bounty.
3 pounds sustainable firm white fish (halibut, cod, red snapper, sea bass)
2 medium jalapenos, seeds and membranes removed, diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup or more fresh squeezed lime juice (7 to 15 limes)
½ cup lemon juice
1 avocado, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 head butter lettuce, rinsed and dried, the leaves separated
3 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
Remove any skin, bones and dark spots from fish. Cut fish into ½ inch cubes.
In a glass or plastic bowl, mix fish with jalapenos, cilantro, and lemon and lime juice to cover.
Refrigerate, covered, for two hours, stirring mixture every 15-20 minutes. After 2 hours, check to see fish is opaque and tastes “cooked.” If so, drain. If not, let sit for a bit longer, then drain.
Lay out large lettuce leaves on counter. Spoon 2 tablespoons or more into each leaf, roll as in stuffed cabbage. To serve, place individual rolls on plate, sprinkle with tomato, salt , pepper and olive oil.
Crudo with Beet Confetti and Horseradish Cream
This is an even easier alternative to gefilte fish which has the added advantage of tasting better. You need to use great quality fish. I use California local-caught yellowtail. Make sure you slice it thin against the grain. Don’t cheap out on the olive oil, either.
1 pound top quality sustainable salt water fish (halibut, sea bass, yellowtail)
½ cup great quality extra virgin olive oil
3 beets, yellow, red and orange
5 inches horseradish root r 2 T. prepared horseradish
2 T. mayonaisse
1 bag microgreens or arugula
2 blood oranges
good quality sea salt
Wrap beets in foil and roast in 450 degree oven until very tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, unwrap, slip off skins and wipe clean. Dice in 1/8 inch dice.
Chop horseradish and blend in blender with mayo, or use prepared horseradish and mayo.
Using Refrigerate fish. Using a sharp knife, cut across the grain in very thin slices, about 1/8 inch. Place slices in glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl and coat with 1/4 cup olive oil . Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes. Remove from fridge, place individual slices on each plate. Use ¼ cup fresh live oil (not marinade) to drizzle over fish.
Sprinkle each piece with beets and drizzle with horseradish sauce. Place a pile of microgreens or arugula alongside. Blend orange juice and remaining olive oil and drizzle over greens.
Sprinkle sea salt over fish and salad and serve.
Chicken with Green Garlic, Baby Artichokes and Morel Mushrooms
Fresh morels aren’t cheap but they are a spring treat. You can find less expensive dried ones online or at Surfas in Culver City. Green garlic is in most farmers markets now. This recipe will work using 15 whole fresh garlic cloves, which you peel and leave whole.
16 pieces chicken
½ cup olive oil
½ cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 pound green garlic
14 baby artichokes (2-to 3 pounds), clean, trim base and cut in quarters
salt and pepper
1 pound fresh or 4 ounces dried morel mushrooms
1 T. fresh thyme
3 fresh bay leaves
1/c cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using dried morels, soak in ½ cup hot water while sautéing chicken. Clean garlic well, slice off brown or dry parts, and slice into thin ¼ inch rounds.
In a large skillet, sauté garlic in some olive oil until garlic begins to soften, about 5 minutes, add artichokes, some salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, another 5 minutes.
In a large oven proof skillet, heat olive oil. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Add to pan, not crowding, and brown on each side, about 3 to 5 minutes each. Remove from pan.
Deglaze pan with wine or vermouth, add sautéed garlic and artichokes, the mushrooms, thyme and bay and the chicken. Cover and let cook over medium low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. You can also place in the warm oven and let cook 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and test for doneness. No one likes chicken sushi. Serve with the Vegetable Tian. And matzo.
Roasted Asparagus with Vincotto
Doesn’t get easier than this. Choose excellent quality asparagus. You can steam or roast them. Either way, don’t overcook, or undercook. Vicoto is sweet cooked grape must from Italy.
3 pounds asparagus, cleaned
½ c. vincotto
salt and pepper
Steam asparagus until tender but not soft, or rost in a 450 oven until bright gren and tender. Let cool a bit, then toss with vincott and season with salt and pepper.
Click here for: the ultimate Passover dessert.
March 15, 2010 | 1:27 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
In Barry Levinson’s 1987 movie Tin Men there’s two scenes that always struck me as getting to the emotional core of Passover. The first takes place at a bar. Danny DeVito plays Tilley, a guy whose wife just left him for a man he loathes, and whose house and car have just been repossessed. He’s talking to Sam (played by Jackie Gayle) one of the tough old Jewish cons he works with.
SAM: I’m beginning to believe in God.
TILLEY: You were never one of those athiests, were you?
SAM: No, I’m not saying that, but I’m beginning to give God more thought.
TILLEY: So, what’d you do. Have some kind of religious experience?
SAM: I tell ya…I took my wife for lunch yesterday…We went and had some smorgasbord, and it kind of happened.
TILLEY: You found God at the smorgesbord?
SAM: Yeah. I go there… I see celerey; I see the lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower,...and I think, All these things come out of the ground. They had corn—out of the ground. You say to yourself, How can all these things come out of the ground? You know what I’m talking about? All these things come out of the ground.
TILLEY (not understanding): Yeah.
SAM: I mean, how can that be? Out of the dirt all those things came. And I’m not even getting into the fruits… I’m just dealing with the vegetables right now. With all those things coming out of the earth, there must be a God.
TILLEY: I’m not getting the same religious effect that came over you. I don’t know why, but I don’t feel like running to a church to pray right this second.
SAM: You gotta admit, it’s amazing.
TILLEY: Yeah, yeah….
Cut to many scenes later, when Tilley’s life is even more in the toilet, and he finds himself at Thor’s Smorgasbord. He walks to the salad bar, pauses to look at the bountiful array of vegetables, and time seems to stand still. A beautiful light, a spiritual peace descends upon him. And he prays:
TILLEY: God, if you’re responsible for all this stuff down here, maybe you got a moment’s attention for me….
Of course it doesn’t work out—a woman tries to cut in front of Tilley and he gets annoyed and snaps back. The moment of transcendence for him was another chance to plead his case. But for a second, you almost believed the power of the salad bar bounty to work its magic on Tilley.
Around Passover, that feeling Sam had overcomes me as well. The seder table, when its foods reflect the bounty of spring, the green bursting forth of life, should anchor us in gratitude and awe. That’s also why when I cook for Passover, I try to use as many young new green things—chard, dandelion, artichokes, mint, dill, new potatoes, green garlic, leek shoots, pea tendrils—as possible.
A few years ago, just before Passover, I was making one of those mad dashes into yet another market to pick up yet something else I had forgotten on my list. Leeks. How could I forget the leeks?
I ran into the Whole Foods on Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills, a market that’s rarely on my shopping loop, but that I just happened to be passing that day. Leeks Leeks leeks. With the kind of focus that only having 26 people for a seven course dinner in five hours can bring to a shopper, I beelined for the produce aisle: sweaty, frantic, feeling about as spiritual as a piston.
As I paused to scan for leeks, a man’s voice nearby called out to me.
“Hey, can you reach the chard?”
I didn’t see a soul around, but the voice was familiar as it was unplace-able. Then I looked down to my right. It was Danny De Vito.
“It’s up there,” he said.
De Vito pointed up, arm outstretched like Moses showing the way into the holy Land. I looked up an saw what he saw: a wall of glistening variegated chard: deep green, beet red chard, lemon yellow, all bursting out from the top produce shelf, where clearly he couldn’t reach. Suddenly I was in the scene from Tin Men with him.
“Sure,” I said. I reached up, pulled down a bunch, and handed it to him.
“Thanks,” the actor said. He lifted the sheaf of greens in his hand. “Beautiful stuff.”
That was a good way to begin Passover.
[RECIPE] Passover Vegetable Tian
1 pound new potatoes
1 pound green garlic
1 pound leeks
1 pound fennel
1 pound fresh baby artichokes
1/2 cup olive oil
3 T. fresh dill
2 fresh mint
2 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch watercress
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
Clean all vegetables and cut off inedible parts. Slice potatoes in 1/4 inch rounds. Slice garlic, leeks, fennel in 1/4 inch slices. Quarter artichokes. Chop herbs. Heat olive oil in large oven proof casserole over a high flame. When hot, add the fennel, leeks, garlic, potatoes, artichokes, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir, reduce flame to medium low and cover. Let cook 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft. (You can also cook in a 400 degree oven.) Uncover, raise heat, add wine, stir until evaporated. Stir in dill, mint and watercress. Cook another 5 minutes, uncovered. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.
March 7, 2010 | 9:07 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Over the weekend, I was mulling my second list—Nine Ways To Make LA an Ultimate Food City—as well as the comments it provoked, and it occurred to me that by making LA a better food city, we will make it a better city in general. Cleaner, more prosperous, more just, more accessible, more fun, with healthier, smarter children to boot. Just by focusing on something too many of us see as indulgent—the quality of our food—we can effect great and much-needed changes throughout our whole society.
Consider this thread: I want to eat plenty of fresh artichokes. Three years ago I ripped out the front lawn that came with our Venice house, and planted it with artichokes. I get two crops each year. Last summer I estimated my artichoke harvest at 130 pounds. Today, looking out my window, I see the plants are ready to bud out. The goat manure they’ve gobbled—another post on another day—has thickened their ribs and sent their spear-shaped leaves out four fee in each directions. The buds themselves are sweet as Cynar, as delicious raw as cooked. Here’s the benefit to the city: my food-centric landscaping uses less water—but produces food with the water it does use. It attracts bees, especially when I let some of the buds blossom, and my front lawn is studded with bursts of blue choke thistle. I share the harvest with neighbors, many of whom I’ve met as they stop to admire the stretch of farm interrupting the street’s lawn lawn lawn scape. In sum: we eat better, our home looks better, our neighborhood feels closer, and we put less strain on the environment. A better city through better food.
Years ago in an essay, author/eater Jim Harrison called for the betterment of America’s restaurants. He wanted America to be more like France, where even truck stops served memorable meals. “We’re not necessarily talking the fate of nations here….” he wrote. But maybe we are. Maybe how we eat has more to do with our city’s and our nations’ fate than we know. We do know that it directly determines our body’s fate, so why not that of our body politic? Improve our food, improve our city. Better food, a better country. There’s a Green Party, why not a Food Party? Better yet, a Slow Food Party? Just think about it, a party platform that comes with recipes…
Roasted Artichoke Buds
By the end of the artichoke season, I have bags full of the smaller artichoke buds, and I needed to find a way to clan, cook and serve them quickly, while they were still fresh, but without a lot of hassle. This is that way. Eating them is a messy, finger intensive process, the same as picking through Dungeness crab hearts on Fisherman’s Wharf or Chesapeake Bay crabs down by the Potomac in Washington DC. But um, kosher. I pick off the smaller buds—though this works for even larger ones—and leave them to soak in salted water for an hour. The earwigs that inevitably crawl out go straight to the chickens. After a careful rinse, they are ready to use.
Fresh Bay leaves
Splash of white wine
Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In a large roasting pan or tray, toss ingredients together in a proportion that makes sense. You want to flavor without overpowering, and you want enough oil to shine up each choke. Cover and place in oven until soft, about 40 minutes. Remove cover and finish roasting, stirring occasionally, until the edges are brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.
Serve hot, warm or cold. You eat this by picking off the inedible parts and sucking up the soft meaty ones.
March 5, 2010 | 10:08 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
In his “Off the Pulpit” e-mail column today, Rabbi David Wolpe declares his long-time vegetarianism. Rabbi Wolpe is one of the leading rabbis in the country—an accomplished author and speaker who leads one of the major Conservative congregation in the west, Sinai Temple. In the past we’ve run stories on hos he single-handedly, using his considerable rhetorical gifts, swayed his congregation to give up their gas hogs for Priuses, or donate to help Israel, or any number of other worthy causes. But has he ever tried to ween them off animal flesh? Not that I know of. Sinai Temple is a big, meaty shul. About a third of the congregants are Persian Jews, and I suspect there’s not lot of veggies in the lot. A Persian meal may be tricked out with a thousand pilafs and adorned with bowls of fruits and nuts and haystacks of fresh herbs, but the heart of the exercise is meat: stews, kebab and, as the community has grown wealthier and more Americanized, hunks of roasts. This is a people who loves their meat. They would follow their beloved rabbi anywhere—he has proven that—but even he knows how far to lead.
That has to be challenging, because not eating animals is very much part of his heart and soul. As he writes:
I have not eaten chicken or meat for decades. I readily acknowledge that Judaism does not ask this of me. Kashrut is not vegetarianism. But kashrut is a reminder of Judaism’s concern with animal suffering.
The Talmud tells the story of a frightened calf on its way to slaughter breaking free to hide under the robes of Rabbi Judah Hanasi, one of the greatest of the Talmudic Rabbis. Rabbi Judah Hanasi pushes the calf away declaring, “Go — for this purpose you were created.” This insensitivity was punished, the Talmud relates, and the rabbi later repented. (B.M. 85a)
Tza’ar Ba’alei chayim, acknowledging and preventing the suffering of living creatures, is an important Jewish principle. Nature may be “red in tooth and claw,” but we are both part of nature and commanded to rise above it. For human beings, instinct is the beginning of the story, not its culmination. To make those in our power suffer, whether people or animals, is to darken our own souls.
Many biblical heroes are shepherds; animals too must rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:20) and the bible legislates many other protections for animals. We are the custodians of creation. Our first responsibility is to be kind.
To attend a Persian feast (let along an Ashkenazi steak-and-chicken fest) is to see the fruits of factory farming laid out in abundance. As much joy as the rabbi takes in celebrating with his congregants, he has to wince at the buffet. At a benefit for the Shoah Foundation last year, we sat next to each other. The food was well above average—pumpkin ravioli in sage cream sauce, rare lamb chops—but the rabbi told the server he wouldn’t be eating. He nursed a glass of red wine all night—“My kind of meal,” I said.
Many years ago I ate with him at his favorite restaurant, Real Food Daily on La Cienega. My sense is the rabbi isn’t just veggie, he leans vegan. He plunged into whatever was on offer, but I was less enthralled. With its tempeh burgers and Tofu Reubens, Real Food always struck me as faking real food. If I go vegan, give me an honest sabzi polo, not a substitute deli dish. Anyway, the rabbi was happy.
But does eating meat somehow lower us, does it, as the rabbi says, “darken our own souls?” I’m not convinced. As Barbara Kingsolver writes:
“I find myself fundamentally aligned with a vegetarian position in every way except one: however selectively, I eat meat. I’m unimpressed by arguments that condemn animal harvest while ignoring, wholesale, the animal killing that underwrites vegetal foods. Unaccountable deaths by pesticide and habitat removal—the beetles and bunnies that die collaterally for our bread and veggie burgers—are lives plumb wasted….
…“We raise these creatures for a reason.” *What, to kill them? It seems that sensitivity and compassion to animals is lacking in this comment.
“To envision a vegan version of civilization, start by erasing from all time the Three Little Pigs, the boy who cried wolf, Charlotte’s Web, the golden calf, Tess of the d’Urbervilles…
“Recently while I was cooking eggs, my kids sat at the kitchen table entertaining me with readings from a magazine profile of a famous, rather young vegan movie star….What a life’s work for that poor gal: traipsing about the farm in her strappy heels, weaving among the cow flops, bending gracefully to pick up eggs and stick them in an incubator where they would maddeningly hatch, and grow bent on laying more eggs. It’s dirty work, trying to save an endless chain of uneaten lives. Realisticially, my kids observed, she’d hire somebody.”
“My animals all had a good life, with death as its natural end. It’s not without thought and gratitude that I slaughter my own animals, it is a hard thing to do. It’s taken me time to be able to eat my own lambs that I had played with.”
Rabbi Wolpe points out that, “Many biblical heroes are shepherds,” but of course those shepherds raised animals for food and ate the animals they raised. Meat suffuses the Bible—raising it, cooking it, sacrificing it. It strikes me that the Torah at least accepts and more likely promotes killing animals as part and parcel of a holy life.
That leaves the major question of how: how do we treat animals, kill them, and eat them? That is where holiness enters the equation—that is where we have the opportunity to raise ourselves beyond our “animal nature.”
But, still, the rabbi needs to eat, and eat well. So below is a recipe for Sabzi Polo, an herby Persian pilaf fluffed with herbs and studded with the fresh fava beans that are in the farmers markets these days. The picture and slide shows shows Santa Monica Kosher Market’s sabzi, as well as its shishlik grill which fills the parking lot each Sunday and sends plumes of agonizingly fine smelling smoke (to me, not Rabbi wolpe) down Santa Monica Blvd.
6 cups water
4 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cups fresh fava beans
1 T. ground turmeric
1/2 c. shelled pistachio nuts
salt and fresh grown pepper to taste
In a large saucepan bring water to a boil and 1 t. salt to boil. Pour rice into boiling water. Boil until rice rises to the surface of the water. Drain rice and return it to the saucepan. Stir in the oil and water. Mix in the dill, parsley, cilantro, fava beans, salt and pepper.
Cook the rice over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to the lowest setting. Cover and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes.
Turn out onto platter and decorate with tumeric and shelled pistachio nuts.
March 2, 2010 | 11:00 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Touchy touchy. Last week in Foodaism I dared suggest that Saveur magazine may have been overhyping things by declaring Los Angeles “The Ultimate Food City.” To read the bawling, angry, acting-out reactions to my post you’d think I called for every Yelper to be sent to bed without his Kogi. So this week I’ll do what any good child psychologist would have suggested I do first: use positive language.
To reiterate my basic point: LA has wonderful food. It has bountiful ethnic restaurants and markets, some very good high end places, and an impressive web of farmer’s markets. Saveur got all that right. But LA is not yet the ultimate food city; it is not even a great food city. That was the thrust of my criticism. I didn’t mean to insult those who just discovered Koreatown, where I’ve been working and eating for the past 16 years, back when there were more bad Fillipino places there than good Korean ones (Who else remembers the Jitney Café?). And who knew that Palms has such a loyal fan base. You’d almost think it was, I don’t know, Venice.
Yes, I love that I can—as I did not long ago—stop on the way to work at the Argentine café Grand Casino for a yerba mate and a cornetto, continue onto Koreatown where at lunch a Korean chef will show a Latino busboy how to make my Japanese sushi roll, then pop into the Tar Pit on the way home for a meeting and drink a glorious concoction of bay leaf infused vodka, oloroso sherry and flamed orange rind, grab a cupcake for the kids at Famous Cupcake, then have dinner at Ado, where the chef/owner is in the kitchen and the maitre d’ owner would hold his hand on a light bulb if you told him it was too bright. That is a good food day, in a very good food city. (Not average though—usually I make my own mate, grab an avocado sandwich from Sunny and Charles at Trimana, and make dinner for the family at home).
But here, on the positive side, are the Nine Ways to Make LA a Great Food City. Read to the end, then add Number 10:
1. Open a Massive, Throbbing, Heart-Stopping, Hunger-Stirring Big-Ass Perpetual Farmers Market.
Think Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market, but indoors in a landmark centrally-located building, open 7 days a week. Think Les Halles of the 19th century, updated to the 21st. This would be the jewel in LA’s food crown—a showcase for the finest locally-grown ingredients, a ready market to encourage new growers and artisan food makers, a place for chefs and diners to mingle, a spur for new food and food education. Yes we have Grand Central and the Farmers Market on 3rd and Fairfax, and maybe these could morph into that, but they aren’t there yet.
2. Triple the number of Food AND PROVISION trucks
Those food trucks descending like fine smelling SWAT wagons into Venice and Holywood and Mid-Wilshire prove that in a city that makes it hard to get to food, there is an abundant market for food that gets to you. Build on that success. Bring back the bakery and vegetable and seltzer trucks that used to cruise LA—one of my happiest childhood memories is of the Helms Bakery truck that regularly honked its horn in front of my Encino house, bringing the Mad Men-era housewives and us kids out for bread and a glazed donut. The Japanese man who sold vegetables out of the back of his truck soon followed. Besides making sure good food permeates the city’s long stretches of mediocrity, a new food truck flotilla would create impromptu neighborhood meeting places.
3. Free up zoning and licensing to mix food businesses and residential areas, and F the NIMBYs.
When I dared dis Palms in my last post, what I meant was that between Pico and Venice boulevards to the south and north and between Lincoln and National (to be kind) on the west and east, there is NOTHING TO EAT. Nowhere to stop. If you want to walk from your house for a cup of good coffee, you will walk for a mile. True, at the scale of fully tanked-up car LA’s food is spread out before you like Babbette’s Feast, but driving from course to course does not a great food city make. The key is to integrate high quality corner stores, cafes, restaurants and bars into neighborhoods. Make good food a part of the block, not a distant destination. Of course when proprietors try to do that, neighbors load on so many conditional users the bottom line won’t pan out.
4. Loosen after hours regulations and encourage more late dining out
A lot of great dining happens after 10, in Madrid, in Bangkok, in Buenos Airies. This town closes up too early. What about keeping the lights on the Venice Boardwalk on warm nights, and turning it into a strolling promenade like the Zattere in the real Venice? Let people linger, eat late, enjoy.
5. Improve public transportation
To be a great food city you need to have diners who can get around to eat it, explore it, stay late enjoying it. Many commenters pointed out the fact that LA’s miserable public transportation system makes that difficult, but that, they say, is the problem with LA, not LA’s food. To which I say, quoting Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, “I don’t care.” Doesn’t matter whose fault it is, it is an irrefutable damper on LA’s ability to be a great food city.
6. Encourage City and Suburban Agriculture
The more stuff we grow, the stronger our ties to good fresh ingredients and the chefs who turn them into good food. Turn lawns into artichoke plots, empty lots into tomato fields, sideyards into chicken coops—a pygmy milk goat or two on every block! Make it easy and legal to sell the excess at neighborhood farm stands.
7. Invest in Yummier Schools
I believe that children are our future. No, really. The more money and time we put into programs like Alice Waters Edible Schoolyards, the more the next generation won’t settle for calling LA the ultimate food city, yet.
8. Zone for More Outdoor Cafés, Especially on the Coast
As I said, we have the best weather and the fewest outdoor cafes; some of the nicest beaches and the worst coastal dining. Let’s convince the county and the powers that be that there is revenue in smart restaurant growth along the beaches.
9. Make the Supermarkets Part of the Solution
Jim Murez, who runs the Friday Venice Farmers Market, rightly points out that LA food revolves around the car and the supermarket. When you consider the quality of the supermarkets, you understand a lot about how far we have to go to improve people’s understanding of how good food can be. But that’s where we are, and that’s where we need to start. So here’s the plan: encourage the supermarkets to carry more local food and produce; to hold more nutrition, cooking and gardening demos, to use some of their hardscaping for demo gardens, to work with local chefs to promote better eating and cooking.
That’s my list of 9. What’s your #10?