Mixed Use Housing

I’m back, not with a recipe as such, but occasional pieces on food, life, the future and even an occasional recipe. I may or may not change the name. I would love to hear from any of you still reading and I hope you enjoy some of my new pieces.

Every time I drive down Ventura Boulevard I am warmed by the new buildings in Sherman Oaks, Encino and on out. The new buildings are mostly mixed use: housing, offices, restaurants and retail. I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a residential neighborhood that had a little grocery within a short walk which was great, but my dad had to drive to work. This was the beginning of the suburban sprawl or “white flight” as it was so referred. The neighborhoods to the north of me had no markets on the corner let alone restaurants, offices or retail shops. These were all segregated or “zoned” into different areas only accessible by car, bus or the rare taxicab. I remember relishing our little market and wished that my “office” could be on our block. I was 6.

We have crossed over the peak of oil production on this planet, which means that we will have less and less oil at greater and greater prices until we reach a point that, even though there may be oil still in the ground, it will cost the same amount to remove it as it is worth. This means that our reliance on fossil fuels has got to shift. No longer is this just a talking point for politicians, or some far off problem being tackled at MIT. This problem is now on our shoulders. We have to use less and less liquid fuel as a society so the few uses that must burn those fuels (like airplanes) will have enough to continue.

Our food supply is directly effected by this same problem. The combination of mono crop growth (corn and soy beans) taking over our largest farm lands, relegating most produce to be grown in California or in other countries, creates the need for trucking most of the produce across the entire country. This, coupled with our growing demand for meat and meat products has left our food supply vulnerable to big business and the diminishing fuel supply, both factors contributing to rising prices at the supermarket. This means that we need to change the way we eat, we shop and we farm.

Mixed use buildings are one good measure toward a new paradigm that addresses some of these issues. The ability to walk to work, the grocery and restaurants drastically reduces fuel consumption. No, it is not THE answer. There is no one answer to such a complex challenge. This may be the reason that most people ignore what has now become an obvious problem. Without a bumper sticker slogan to drive the point, most will continue to ignore it. If you are one who doesn’t mind tackling complex problems and valuing a multitude of solutions as a means to an improved end then please join me in celebrating mixed use buildings.

How? There are many ways to support this effort. Urging city planning commissions and city councils to change zoning to allow for more mixed use. Suggesting to family and friends the option of living closer to work, school, shopping and entertaining. Leading by example and moving into one of these areas. Abandon suburbia. Grow a garden on your rooftop. Sell your car. Buy a bike. Take the bus.

I know you are saying to yourself, “Who is he to preach to me? What is he doing about it?” We have moved within walking distance of restaurants and markets. With the exception of the rare visit to our sushi bar, when we do eat at restaurants we only eat at ones within walking distance (which means we can also have a glass of wine without ending up in jail). We have a garden that is expanding this year to include another strip along the house and herbs in the front yard. We only use one car. We take the subway downtown and I take it to work when applicable. (LA is way behind in our subway system development). We make every attempt to eat locally grown produce and locally raised meats, cutting way back on meat consumption as well.

Once you start viewing the world through the lens of the realities of what is coming, the happier you will be. The world is not coming to an end, but the world as we once knew it is quickly fading.

Lobster Spaghetti

There are so many things that I could write right now. I know that you do not want to read any of them. In the world of Facebook and Twitter and other social networks not yet explored by yours truly, you have no doubt been exposed to everyone in the world’s good wishes for next year, good riddance to last year (except for a very few who had a good year) and what, where and how you should live your life for the foreseeable future. I only offer you this: live well, love yourself and everything else will come your way. Bon Appetit!

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Lobster Tails (3-6 Oz)
  • 8 oz Spaghetti (1/2 pack)
  • 1 Stick Butter (It’s New Years!)
  • 2 Lemons, zested
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Large Shallot, finely chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Tarragon
  • 1 Tablespoon Brandy
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Large Pot
  • Large Saute Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Grater
  • Oven Proof (Pyrex) Pan
  1. Pre Heat oven to 350.
  2. Wash and pat dry the lobster tails.
  3. Salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon and place a sliver of butter on top of each tail.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup white wine in the bottom of the pan.
  5. Put water for pasta on to boil.
  6. Bake lobsters for about 15 minutes. You want them to be red but not overcooked.
  7. Remove and let cool to the touch.
  8. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in saute pan.
  9. Add shallots and gently sauté.
  10. When water is boiling salt and add pasta. Cook until al dente.
  11. Add the rest of the wine to the sauté pan.
  12. Let reduce by about a third.
  13. Add most of the chives, lemon zest, tarragon and the rest of the butter and simmer.
  14. Remove the lobster tails from their shells, reserving the liquid.
  15. Chop lobster into bite sized pieces and pour the left over liquid into the pan.
  16. Add the lobster to the pan and cook for a minute or two.
  17. Remove from flame and add brandy.
  18. Drain pasta and mix into the sauce.
  19. Add the rest of the chives and serve.

Lemon Pasta with Caviar

I have gone back through the 364 posts and would like to share a few highlights with you.

First of all, I am very upset about the news that Beyonce has signed a deal with Pepsi Co. for 50 million dollars. Since it is reported that she already has 300 million, I am not feeling that she needs the money and the message that she is sending to the young girls that look up to her is now quite confused. Childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions and this is especially true in minority neighborhoods. Here is part of a piece from Jan. 3:

We have a serious health issue in childhood obesity. There was an article in the LA Times recently outlining the disparity between an affluent beach community and a Latino community.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-obesity-gap-20111228,0,6940998.story

While parental nutrition plays a major role in keeping our children healthy, I’m sure that the children of Manhattan Beach are not staying slim by drinking their mother’s diet soda. The jury is still out on whether Aspartame (the sweetener used in most diet drinks) is safe, but regardless of whether it is “safe” your children should not be drinking it. I’m pretty sure neither should you. Substituting one bad habit for another is never a great solution.

The eating and drinking habits established early in life are very hard to reverse. Hats off to all of the school systems that have eliminated sugary drinks from vending machines. We are moving in the right direction. Please be vigilant about eliminating ALL of the sugary drinks around your house. They are empty calories and cause a myriad of health issues.

My early thoughts on vegetarianism:

I have become somewhat of a weekday vegetarian. Like many, I have been influenced by “Knifes over Forks” and the overwhelming evidence that is out there about the benefits of a plant based, whole food diet. If you are not yet considering changes in your eating lifestyle you might enjoy Mark Bittman’s Ted Talk as food for thought:

http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bittman_on_what_s_wrong_with_what_we_eat.html

On Shopping:

Shopping with me at the supermarket can be an interesting experience. The first thing that one would notice is that I never go into the center isles (unless it’s for beer). There is nothing eatable between the toilet paper and the light bulbs. All of the fresh food is on the parameter. So, that means that I don’t go into the frozen food, cans, bread, or any of the other profit centers that specialize in packaged, processed food. There hasn’t been a reason to by frozen food since the 60′s.

On Protein:

We live in a country driven by supply and demand. The reason that there are so many cows being raised the way they now is not because some big corporation said so; it’s because we as consumers are demanding more and more meat, chicken and pork. This is not sustainable, healthy or necessary. You do not need to eat meat products, period! Protein is not meat. It is a nutrient that is in almost all foods. Vegans who eat no meat products at all do not lack this essential nutrient in their diet. In fact, the average American eats far more than the needed amount of protein to maintain a healthy, growing body. If you want to read more, check out the best food writer on the internet, Marion Nestle. http://www.foodpolitics.com/2012/01/peevish-about-protein/

And on Government:

Another article in The Los Angeles Times today was about the Food Stamp program and how states are starting to try to regulate the types of food that can be purchased. Already one cannot buy alcohol, tobacco or “hot food”. Both of these topics bring to light the same quandary. Do you want  government involved in food? I welcome protection from mad cow disease, e.coli, botulism and a whole other host of risks associated with malfeasance on the part of greedy, or at least sloppy, suppliers of our food. I want my tax dollars used to keep tabs on and make laws about the safety of the food I feed my children.

And that was just highlights from January. I hope you enjoyed reading my rants, opinions and references to others in the food movement. I have tried to be fair and informative without just stating opinions that were not backed up with at least a modicum of research. There are so many events and actions regarding our food that it is hard to keep up. I hope you found my underlining of some of the issues useful. I feel that it is important to keep as well informed as possible on these subjects. Our food is at stake which means that our lives are at stake. It is no small matter.

I wish you a prosperous new year. There will be something here but not a recipe a day. The transition will be announced soon. I hope you come back. Tomorrow will be my last recipe.

Today, I give you an idea that originated from Ida Garten. This is a dish very similar to the one she enjoys on New Years Eve in Paris (the lucky gal).

Ingredients

  • 1 Package of Dried Fettuccini (16oz)
  • 1/2 Cup Meyer Lemon Juice
  • Zest of 2 Meyer Lemons
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
  • Handful Fresh Chives, finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • As Much Black Caviar as you can afford

Tools

  • Large Sauce Pan
  • Large Saute Pan
  • Fine Grater
  • Measuring Cup
  • Hand Juicer
  • Whisk
  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil.
  2. When boiling, add salt then pasta and cook as long as package indicates, or until al dente.
  3. Zest two lemons. The meyer lemon skin is thinner than a regular lemon and therefore produces less zest.
  4. Squeeze 1/4 cup juice, careful not to include any seeds.
  5. Whisk in olive oil. Taste to make sure it has the right acidity. The lemons will vary and might require more or less oil.
  6. Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the olive oil/lemon mixture and cheese to it and stir together. Turn off flame.
  7. When the pasta is done, strain into sauté pan.
  8. Toss with a little pepper, lemon zest and the chives.
  9. Serve in bowls with a dollop of caviar on each. If you can find it, try the American Paddlefish roe. Only your wallet will know the difference.

Mom’s Holiday Jello Salad

Yes, I am running a little thin but I thought this one was entertaining. I found this recipe among my mother’s stuff. I remember it barely. You can certainly attempt to make it but I present it as much as a recipe as a remembrance.

Ingredients

  • 1 Box Lime Jello
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 1 Cup Crushed Pineapple
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Packages Regular Cream Cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil (listed as salad dressing in the original recipe)
  • 3 Tablespoons Pimentos
  • 1 Teaspoon Pimento Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Ground Nuts (pecans or walnuts)
  • 1 Cup Celery

Tools

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Stand or Hand Mixer
  1. Place jello in bowl and pour over boiling water. Let combine.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend.
  3. Let stand then chill.

 

Chanterelle Risotto

We are closing in on one year. I have posted a recipe every single day since New Years Day, 2012. I have covered a lot of territory and I hope that I have shared some delicious meals with you. I have learned a lot about cooking, eating, writing and myself. It has been quite an experience.

Eating is such an important part of our life. Some might say the most important part. I urge you to keep a good attitude about cooking, eating and the three buzz words of this century: local, organic and sustainable. Eat whole foods, mainly fruits and vegetables and not too much. Drink well and also not too much. Above all, be happy, exercise and you will be healthy. The biggest obstacle between you and good health is between your ears.

We found some great and affordable chanterelles last night and took a break from all of the holiday fare.

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 1 Cup Chanterelles, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan, coarsely grated
  • 1 Teaspoon Rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • 2 Large Sauce Pans
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Grater
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Non-stick Pan
  • Ladle
  1. Warm the chicken broth and water in one of the pans. 
  2. In the bottom of the other sauce pan warm the olive oil.
  3. Saute the onion and garlic until translucent.
  4. Stir in the rice so it is well coated in the oil.
  5. Add the wine and let reduce by half. Stir while it reduces.
  6. Add the broth a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.
  7. Repeat until the rice fluffs up.
  8. In a non stick pan cook the mushrooms with a little salt until they soften. About 10 minutes.
  9. When the rice is fluffy but still a little hard to the tooth add the mushrooms and rosemary.
  10. Continue to cook, adding more broth if needed.
  11. When the rice is al dente, stir in the cheese.

We served this with a couple of scallops and an arugula salad. It was a wonderful post Christmas dinner. One I will remember for a long time thanks to my lovely wife.

Divinity

This is another of those family favorites.

 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 Cup Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Vinegar
  • 1 Egg white
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans
  • 30 Pecan Halves

Tools

  • Cookie Sheet
  • Deep Sauce Pan
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Blender or Hand mixer or Stand Mixer
  1. Combine the honey, water, vinegar, chopped pecans and vanilla in a pan and bring the temperature to firm ball, 250.
  2. In a separate bowl beat the egg white to stiff peaks.
  3. Gently combine the egg white into the sugar mixture.
  4. Drop by teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet.
  5. Press a half pecan in each cookie.
  6. Let cool.

Springerle Cookies

I dug a little deeper in my mother’s recipe mayhem and much to my surprise, I found my mother’s springerle recipe. If you are not familiar, don’t worry, you are not alone. Pre-internet, I searched forever to find a recipe for these little, hard anise gems. I think I have mentioned before that my hometown had a small but fierce German contingent, my grandfather and hence my mother being part of it. These cookies were a remnant of that somewhat faded tradition. In fact, my memory of sringerles is pretty dim and it was not until well into my 30s that I have any memory of these funny little cookies.

When I came across my mom’s I was surprised by how simple her’s was. I was also surprised that there was no fat, no butter or crisco or anything. Subsequently, I did find others on the internet that left out the fat as well. I think you could add a little butter and not hurt anything, but here is my mother’s recipe as is. All I have done is organize it in my format and typed it so you can read it. There are very few people on the planet that can read my mother’s scrawl.

Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 1/4 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Anise Flavoring or Oil

Tools

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Flat Space or Board for Rolling
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Rolling Pin
  • Springerle Rolling Pin or Forms (optional)
  • Spatula
  • Paring Knife
  1. Stir together the eggs, sugar and flour.
  2. Add the anise flavoring.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until about 1/8 inch thick.
  4. Cut with springerle rolling pin, cookie cutters or just cut into rectangles aprox. 1″ x 1 1/2″. The tradition is to have the little designs specific to these cookies but the rolling pins are hard to find and not so easy to use. If you enjoy the tradition then by all means, but I usually cut them into little rectangles and just enjoy the taste tradition.
  5. Leave them on the cutting board at room temperature for at least 10 hours.
  6. Pre heat oven to 325.
  7. On a lightly buttered cookie sheet, bake cookies for 12-15 minutes.
  8. They will keep in a tightly sealed container for a long time. Part of the tradition is to age them until they are really hard. I could never wait.