Inspired by California-Mediterranean cuisines and farmers markets, I cook healthy, flavorful dishes that are easy-to-prepare yet elegant. I write for Zester Daily, One for the Table, Luxury Travel Magazine, Huffington Post & New York Daily News. My latest Amazon eCookbook is 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes. My handcrafted chocolates are available at www.dchocolates.com.
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We're having a party. On July 4th we'll gather in the park opposite our local high school (Pali High) to eat, catch up and watch fireworks. Everyone will bring food and drinks to share and a sweater because when the sun goes down, it gets chilly.
We have been doing this for so many years, I'm not certain when we started. Sometimes the group grows to almost thirty. Sometimes a handful of friends shows up. We've noticed that when the 4th falls on a weekend, there isn't enough time to travel out of town, so our group swells. This year, the 4th is on Tuesday, so our group will be more intimate. Big or small, the gathering is fun.
Everyone is asked to bring a favorite food. Something special. This year I'm making fried chicken the way chef Wes Whitsell (Manuela DTLA) showed me for a cooking video we did last month. His fried chicken is crispy and moist. For the cooking demonstration he made wings, thighs and legs. He doesn't like breasts because they don't have enough flavor. I pretty much agree. For my pot luck contribution, I'm making cut apart wings and legs, the easiest parts to eat at a picnic.
I'll also make an Italian parsley salad with chopped vegetables and pitted olives and a Little Gem lettuce salad with carrot rounds and feta cheese, served with whole wheat lavash.
Only recently did I discover Little Gem lettuce. At Glatt, a kosher market, on Pico east of Robertson and then at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market at the Garden of Organic stand. At first I thought they were "baby" romaine lettuces. They have a cleaner, crisper flavor, with less water and more crunch. Wrapped in a damp kitchen towel and placed in a plastic bag, the heads will keep fresh in the refrigerator for three weeks.
Here's the recipe I'll use for the 4th (which is exactly the recipe I use when I make the salad at home except sometimes I'll trade out the feta for blue cheese).
Crispy Little Gem Lettuce Salad
When making the salad, leave the leaves whole so they don't wilt. For the olives, use any kind you enjoy. We like Castelvetrano Green olives, which can be found pitted for easy use, although olives taste best when not pitted.
Serves 4 Time to prepare: 20 minutes
2 heads Little Gem Lettuce, leaves removed whole, washed, pat dried
1 large carrot, washed, ends removed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 large tomato, stem end removed, washed, pat dried, cut into dime size pieces
1 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped
1 scallion, ends removed, washed, brown leaves discarded, cut into paper thin rounds (optional)
1/2 cup feta, pat dried, crumbled
1 medium avocado, washed, peeled, pit and any brown spots removed, cut into dime sized pieces
1/2 cup homemade croutons (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced over a low flame to 2 teaspoons, cooled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lay the Little Gem leaves in the bottom of a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the carrots, tomatoes, olives, scallions (optional), feta, avocado and croutons (optional).
Just before serving, season with sea salt and black pepper, drizzle on olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.