Friday, August 31, 2007

A Smokin' Summer Breakfast

L.A. is mid-heat wave right now, yuck, though it's not as bad as last summer when we had the blackouts. Small favors, sigh. Since I became my own boss and now have the best commute in L.A. (I shamble from my bedroom to living room. Yay, no traffic!) I try to use the saved time to make breakfast everyday. I read years ago that people who eat breakfast end up consuming less calories over the course of the day... probably because they're not starving by lunchtime, so are less inclined to eat a magically delicious Double-Double (proof #427 that God loves us):

When I get hungry my brain shuts off completely, well, except to pick fights with those nearby, and all I want is fat and grease. Mmmm. There's a place in my world for the joys of fat and grease, but I like to choose them for the right reasons (they're delicious! I'm on a road trip! PMS!) versus the wrong reasons (Must-not-faint-gimme-fat-gimme-fat-you-bastard!).
In the summer I find it harder to eat, the heat shuts off my stomach, but this tasty treat is always appealing:

A crusty slice of rye, toasted medium, a pleasant schmear of cream cheese, and wild-caught Alaskan smoked salmon. Wild-caught costs a little more, but it tastes better and is apparently less likely to kill you than farmed salmon. Yikes! Sometimes I top it with my fancy Italian salt-packed capers, but today I was too lazy to rinse them off and picked the Pretty Parsley Option instead.
Best part? The brief time my toaster toasts doesn't make my apt. any hotter, which is good because it's 96° in L.A. right now. Ack! What I wouldn't give to be a kid again, with nothing to do but swim and read all day. What else can you do in this heat? I mean, apart from eating popsicles... but we're not up to lunch yet :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Best EZ Cheese Recipe Ever

Dear reader, please enjoy. And be sure to follow the instructions closely... have your crackers ready!
My lovely friend Brendan just purchased a Blendtec blender, I'll give a full review as soon as he's foolish enough to leave me alone with it!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Spot of Tea? or June: TTM, Part II

Dear reader, at long last, please enjoy this photo essay of the lovely English Tea I catered for the bridal shower my talented friend Debora threw! Her daughter was about to wed and move to London-town, so they wanted a traditional tea in the English style. Debora is of Mexican descent, and many of la familia and guests had never experienced the joys of tea sandwiches. Ay dios mio! So I made elegant cucumber and very pretty smoked salmon treats, using the only rye bread worth eating in L.A. (how I long for the fanatastic Jewish baking of my youth):
I also created super-girly strawberry and coconut tea sandwiches cut in the shape of flowers, naturally.
Mmm, and worth a mention was the fantastic fruit salad of Honeydew, Mango and Raspberries with Lime and Ginger. I've noticed when trying out the foods of another culture that though novelty is exciting, we all do better when there are also a few familiar elements. I found this recipe (thanks Cook's Illustrated) and thought, perfect! Mango and lime will be comfortable ingredients. And look at how beautifully it turned out! That is some sexy summer fruit.
I try not to overextend myself, so I hired my exceptionally gifted baker-friend LeeAnn to make chocolate-cherry and pear-ginger scones, as well as raspberry-marzipan and lemon-poppy muffins. Sweet Lord. (Those are my delicate cucumber sandwiches in the background. The secret is to mix in the tiniest bit of blue cheese, it makes them mysteriously interesting.) I find great eating (and catering) is often in the details: for this event I served only decadent Irish butter for smearing on the scones and muffins. Though these touches directly subtract from the bottom line (American butter is so much cheaper!), it's this attention to delicious, best-quality ingredients that differentiate good from f***ing fantastic. Why put in all that effort to turn out merely "acceptable" food? When people take a bite and I see their eyes pop out of their head because they didn't know it could taste so amazing, then I am successful.

So lastly here is yours truly, tired but pleased, shortly before the guests arrived. The flowers were arranged by Boriana, who I bet could trounce Martha in a Floral Goddess Smackdown any day. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a beautiful table; it makes the food more appealing and guests prettier when beside it. (And please note, dear reader, how my outfit matches both the decor and the food. Oh that's no accident, I think of everything. Thanks, obsessive tendencies!)
I served a fabulous smoky black tea from Edinburgh (oops! ran out of English) in mismatched teacups. Guests got to choose their own, and many had been in Debora's family for generations~ a lovely touch. What a pleasure to help celebrate love and families coming together.

Growing up I often felt I didn't have a culture, that mine was standard American WASP; it didn't feel like anything special, or different. Like being surrounded by trees and not recognizing you're in a forest, sometimes I can't see my life clearly until I'm outside of it. I didn't appreciate the excellent Englishness of all the showers I got dragged to as a kid until I put this one on myself. I saw people say, "Cucumber sandwiches?" with wrinkled noses, or "What are those triangles?" as they pointed to the scones. Then their faces would break into bright smiles and I'd hear, "Ooooohhhhh" as they nibbled; I thought yes, this is the food of my people. Thank you, stuffy ancestors, for all the deliciousness you handed down to me. Cheerio!