Monday, September 8, 2008

Word of Mouth: San Gabriel’s Chung King

Finding a new and a great restaurant isn’t easy. I read hundreds of reviews and clip the best ones but they usually just languish in a file. I would never have gone to Chung King but for Jonas Goodman who leads expeditions to new restaurants. Foremost on his list of must-try-restaurants is Chung King, recommended to him by his friend, the wonderful novelist, Nicole Mones, an expert in all things-Chinese.


Not all Chung King’s are created equally. The only one to try, according to Nicole is the one run by Linda Huang’s at her address at 1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776 (626/286-0298). The restaurant inhabits a cinderblock building on a non-descript block in San Gabriel. The exterior doesn’t invite you in, which is why the recommendation of a noted author and respected authority on Chinese cooking is needed.


We weren’t able to join Jonas when he led a recent outing to the restaurant. Our visit last weekend was completely serendipitous. We had driven out to Banning to pay our respects to my mom who is buried there. If you have ever gone to Palm Springs, you have passed through Banning, which sits at the foot of the Idyllwild road. My parents moved there when I was in High School and I don’t have fond memories of the town but that’s where my mother is buried, so we make the trip there to spend a quiet moment with her.


My mom used to joke that the most beautiful place in Banning was the cemetery and our last trip there proved her correct on that score. Blissfully quiet, the graves are placed on a broad plateau that sits high above the desert floor. No freeway or town noise reaches this far up into the mountains. Eventhough the dry heat bakes the landscape, the well-watered grass is green around the graves and the trees that surround the plateau stand straight and tall. We shared a peaceful moment with my mom, had a group hug, and then headed back to LA.


We were tired and hungry and debated whether or not we should take the time to stop and eat or just go straight home. We realized that we would drive through San Gabriel so we decided we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to finally try out Chung King.


The advantage of eating with a large group is being able to sample more of the menu. With four of us, we stayed close to familiar dishes: Kung Pao Chicken (#59), Green Beans (#105), Wonton Soup (#31), and Szechwan Shredded Pork (#53). I took a chance with a dish I hadn't seen before, something called Crispy Rice Crust with Shrimp (#77). Frank discovered the pickled Szechwan vegetables on the cold table; he picked the bean sprouts and sea weed. We ordered steamed rice for the table and now we waited to see if the restaurant deserved the rave given to it by Nicole and Jonas.


The first dish was the Szechwan Flavors Cold Dishes. Perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of heat, the sea weed and bean sprouts (with a few slices of carrots and shredded scallions thrown in for contrast) were delicious. I ate them as a topping to the steaming rice. We had barely gotten half way through the large serving when the Kung Pao Chicken arrived, Michael’s favorite. The outside of the chicken was crispy, the inside moist. The caramelized sauce was counter-balanced by the heat of the Szechwan peppers and the barely cooked scallions.


Then the Shredded Pork arrived. Again, the flavors were perfectly balanced, the meat succulent. After our time in the desert and almost four hours driving, the meal was starting to revive us. Then came two revelations: the Crispy Rice Crust with Shrimp and the Won Ton Soup.


Actually called Broth Wonton, the soup was a minimalist version of a won ton soup. No carrots, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bok choy, or chicken, the soup was as advertised, broth + wontons with a sprinkling of chopped scallions. The soup was lightly spiced with black pepper but was otherwise fat free and clear. The pork inside the won tons was sweet and lightly seasoned. This was soup and won ton wrapper and pork, pure and simple. Each ingredient as fresh as possible, each complimening the other with simplicity. In her novels and food articles, Nicole Mones speaks eloquently about the sophistication of Chinese cooking. The soup was such a good example of what she describes.


And then there was the Crispy Rice. I thought this might be like a Korean rice dish I’d had before with the rice crisped on the bottom of a hot stone pot, but this was something else entirely. A clear sauce, stir fried vegetables—bok choy, carrots, onions, tree mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots--and shrimp were ladled on top of half a dozen crispy rice cakes. Where the sauce had touched the rice cakes, they had begun to soften, but where they were still separate from the sauce, they retained their crunchy, smoky flavor.


We ate and talked and ate again, the food reviving us after a long, hot day. The meal was perfect for the occasion, because we were hungry and because my mother was famously a lover of Asian food: Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese (her favorite). It was appropriate that we had visited her just before and then eaten at Chung King. She would have enjoyed the meal.

The 20th Annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off

Labor Day Weekend I was one of 18 judges at the amazing Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, Nevada, I was also covering the event for Peter Greenberg's travel site. The piece I wrote "Ribs, Ribs, and More Ribs," is up now with a profile of two of the cookers (don't call them "chefs"). I hope you'll take a look.

Part carnival and music festival, the Labor Day weekend Cook Off was front and center a celebration by and for people who love pork ribs.

Some days the temperature pushed above 100 and other days the wind picked up, but no matter, everyone was having fun and that means 500,000+ people standing in line to sample the ribs from 24 of the best barbecue cookers in the country.

The weekend was a blast and I'm going to write more about what I saw, how the judging worked, the people I met, the music I listened to, the barbecue sauces I tasted, and the enormously large amount of meat I ate in a four day period.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Where to Go, What to Do in London and Paris

A good friend in Paris saw my post asking for suggestions about travel to London and Paris. Randa warned me, "Your request was very brave. You will be swamped with millions of great ideas, and you only have TWO DAYS!!!"

The last time I was in either city was more than 30 years ago. I spent a week in London, a few days in Paris, and four days in Madrid. In Paris I visited Fran, my ex-wife, who had fled the "dullness" of America for the excitement of Paris. Her year in Paris was incredibly productive. She directed a documentary on Salvador Dali, wrote a screenplay, and had the best time of her life. For that trip, the plan was I would see London on my own and she would be my guide in Paris. I don't remember the time I spent in London but what I did in Paris is still vivid to me because I saw Paris through her eyes.

Which is why I am grateful that so many of you sent your recommendations about where to go and what to do in London and Paris. Instead of bringing a generic guide book, having those suggestions is like taking a personal scrapbook with me. I'm looking forward to the trip even more than before. There's so much to see and do, I want to go back and I haven't even been there yet.

I'm posting the ones I've gotten so far. I hope you'll continue to send more. I'll update these lists as more suggestions come in. We'll create our own Guide Book to London and Paris!

About London:

From Susan, "In London there are things I love but hardly unknown things. I love the Covent Garden Hotel. The only danger is that you run into every Hollywood agent you don't want to see. Just across the road, in a tiny and famous courtyard, is Neal's Yard Cheese which you of all people absolutely must go to if you never have. It's heaven. Cheese is a religion there, and it's still a tiny old-fashioned shop. Other obvious things: the Tate Modern, which really is amazing, and specifically the walk from St. Paul's to the Tate across the foot bridge. I just love walking in London basically. Also walking from the Tate to the new Globe. I've never seen a performance there, but just touirng the building is wonderful (for me, anyway).

A somewhat underrated place I think is the Museum of London in the dreadful Barbican. I find that kind of history fascinating. Oh, and the new British Library which has been so derided as bad architecture I think is not that bad at all, and the exhibition room takes your breath away: the actual real Beowulf, Jane Austen's writing desk, the only known recording of Virginia Woolf's voice, first folio Shakespeares etc. etc.

I don't think this is much help, cause I don't have any secrets to offer, but I sure as hell wish I were going. Have tremendous fun."

From Melissa who lived in London with her family for a year, "Some suggestions: I assume you know about the Borough Market. If not, it's open Th-Sat, but Fri (from noon) & Sat (open @ 9?) are the best days.

Vendors I liked:
Brindisa Spanish Foods (they also sell amazing Grilled Chorizo sandwiches with piquillo peppers).
Neal's Yark Dairy
Monmouth Coffee (the BEST cappuccino I have ever had outside of Italy)
Total Organics green grocer (Jamie Oliver is rumored to shop there)
The Ginger Pig (great butcher shop)
Konditor & Cook (bakery) Every bakery there has a thing about brownies - huge mountains of them...I thought K&C's were the best.
The Rake (extremely small pub known for its amazing beer selection)

Marylebone High Street Area:
Marylebone Food Fayre (Farmer's Market) - Largest one in London with about 40 vendors (they think that's a lot) - nice (depending on the season) but small. It's in the Cramer St. Car Park on Sunday from 10am-2pm
The Natural Kitchen (a small market and cafe) River Cottage (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) is one of their suppliers
The Fromagerie - great cheese store & cafe
The Ginger Pig (also at The Borough)
Rococo - chocolate shop
The Providores - Tapas - Spanish by a New Zealand Chef. Downstairs - breakfast, lunch dinner...very casual/Upstairs - more upscale

Miscellaneous:
Ottolenghi - Amazing prepared food & pastries served at communal tables (although the Islington location actually has table service). I love this place (there are 4 locations) - they just published a terrific cookbook.
Baker & Spice - similar to Ottolenghi, but smaller.
Whole Foods (yes Whole Foods). JUST as we were moving back to LA, they opened up a gigantic Whole Foods on Kensington High Street. It is so different than any of the UK supermarkets, and I was very sad that I wasn't really able to shop there. If this market does well (I haven't kept up with how it's been received) it will really change the way London shops for food.
Waitrose - The Gelson's of London. Locations all over London. The one on Marylebone High Street is rather small (they revamped it to compete with the Natural Kitchen) and not indicative of what they stock.

I know this is a lot more than you have time for - but these were my haunts and thought I'd share them with you. I didn't list any restaurants but if you tell me where you're staying, I'll try to come up with some suggestions of places in the area.

Have a wonderful trip!"

From Tom a memory from his semester in London when he was a starving law student, "You have to go to a chain called Wagamama. They're everywhere. I ate at Wagamama almost every single day because it was affordable and delicious. Total comfort food. And the Food Court at Harrod's. It's out of control. You could eat every meal there. Relatively sensible meals at affordable prices."

From my Rhode Island friend Hank,
"London is it?...Hmm, I'd suggest an afternoon visit to the Tate Modern and an early dinner at the River Cafe...

The Tate resides in a converted power station and houses, as the name suggests, a rather extensive collection of "modern" art. It's a hoot and the crowd is youthful, lively and oh, so interested....a fun afternoon.

The River Cafe is all it's cracked up to be....That is a hip, timely, expensive and the place to see and of course eat. It's busy and buzzing with all those who count and is operated by a couple of woman proprietors who take food, cooking and consuming very seriously. I like these "serious cookin'" places and these gals do a bang-up job.

Oh, and if time allows, you might zip out to Kew Gardens, a very interesting horticultural gem not more than 20 minutes by tube from most parts of London. The green house dates from the mid 19th century and houses a world class collection of tropical flora (this place is something like 300 feet long and 3 stories tall-incredible). The grounds (many, many acres) are home to huge collections of....everything that you need to see that grows in the earth and can survive at Kew.....

And the only thing I can recommend for Paris (been too long to remember much) is a mass at Notre Dame...breath taking.

Rock on Mister Latt....lucky you!!!!"

Hank's recommendation of The River Cafe was seconded by Chris, "You have to go to River Cafe--it's a ride out to West London, but it is the epitome of local, seasonal, sustainable 'let the ingredients speak' cooking in the UK."

Sibyl remembered both London and Paris, "How fun that you’re taking a trip to London and Paris. Back when I was married my ex and I spent our first anniversary having dinner at the Savoy in London. It was one of the best meals I’ve had, and the atmosphere was incredibly romantic and classy. The Kirov ballet company was at the next table. So that’s the only thing I’d recommend in London.

I was in Paris last summer with my kids and we stayed in the Latin Quarter where there’s a bakery called Keyser (I think it’s spelled that way and named after Eric Keyser, the owner) that we went to every day. It was amazing. Always a line that moved very quickly. Try anything they make with pistachios.

Have fun!!!"

About Paris:

From Ned,
"About five years ago Helena and I were taken by a friend to an astounding dinner at L'Arpege, Paris. Still dreaming about it. Their strange website: http//www.alain-passard.com/fr/
An accurate review:
http://andichahyadihermawan.blogs.friendster.com/zhang_yuqi/2006/09/dner_larpge_par.html

Valerie remembers a seriously wonderful cook store called E. Dehillerin (18 rue Coquillière, 1st arr., 011-33/1-42-36-53-13). That made me curious about other cookware and cookbook stores in Paris. Online I found Clotilde Dusoulier's 2005 comprehensive survey, "My Paris is Better Than Yours," from MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7634215/page/2/ and the full article with other foodie-recommendations: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7634215/page/2/print/1/displaymode/1098/) and Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel.

From Marii a recommendation for a restaurant she still thinks about,
"Fogon."

From Maria Elena who lived and cooked in Paris and so has a great intimacy with all things food in France, "Two of my favorites when I would house sit for my friends Brad and Em, were near their old apartment in the 15th arrondissement: Le Florimond, 19 ave de la Motte-Picquet (at rue Bougainville) 7th arr, metro: Ecole Militaire--great basic French food, wine (says my sister) and the most polite owner around--he greeted, served, and apparently did a lot of the cooking; phone: 01-45-55-40-28.

L'Os a Moelle, 3 rue Vasco da Gama, 15th arr (at rue de Lourmel), phone: 01-95-57-27-27. You need to make a reservation ASAP for this. One fixed price menu for the night, 3 courses, great wine. The 2 sittings are always packed. Last time I was there we had raie (skate fish) in a sauce, pork chop with potato puree, and a chocolate dessert with saffron."

David lived in Paris years ago and even though he hasn't been back recently, he's never forgotten what he loved, "Here are the tourist things worth doing including FLEA MARKETS, take a night cruise on a bateau mouche on the Seine… do not eat dinner… do drink something… Paris lit from the river is beautiful.

Two of my favorite restaurants in the day were Brasserie Le Balzar and the informal patio restaurant at La Closerie de Lilas; I used to get the choucroute at Le Balzar and the steak tartar was great at La Clos; Place des Vosges; Rodin museum; Louvre & Musee D’Orsay; Eiffel Tower; Musee Pompidou and surrounding Beaubourg neighborhood; Ile St Louis with a visit to Bertillon for ice cream; Old Jewish quarter, from there walk to the Picasso museum."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Down and Out in London and Paris

I'd love some advice. I'm taking a trip this coming week to London and Paris to write a piece about upscale business travel. It's been many many decades since I've been in either city. In the meantime I've been clipping newspaper and magazine articles but that's not the same as personal recommendations.

If anyone has a favorite restaurant, farmers' market, specialty market, park, art gallery, museum, public space.....etc. that you think I'd be crazy not to visit, please send me a note.

Happy Birthday, Claire, This Cake's for You, a Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Cake

Years ago when I was living in Rhode Island, I was introduced to the idea of handmade gifts by friends Hank and Risa. Their gifts were never store-bought. For my birthday one year Risa made a knitted palm tree sculpture to remind me of the California I had left behind and Hank carved an elegantly simple kitchen spoon out of curly maple. Decades later I'm reminded of them and their generosity every time I see their gifts.

I don't knit, nor am I a wood-worker, I'm a cook, so my gifts are far less permanent, but I still think that a handmade gift is more personal and evocative, albeit in my case, fleeting. When Michelle's parents in New Jersey have a birthday or anniversary or I want to connect with my friend-in-food Valerie in New York, I'll make a dessert and send it Express Mail. Double-wrapped in Ziploc bags and cushioned to protect against the transit, the gifts always arrive as a happy surprise. (Only once did a food-gift not survive the vagaries of the Postal Service. When a package of homemade pickles reached Valerie's apartment, the doorman called her to say that a very drippy parcel was waiting for her downstairs.)

For our cousin Claire, we wish we were in San Francisco today to celebrate her birthday. I had wanted to send her a Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Cake, a dessert that my wife, Michelle, calls my "signature dish." Unfortunately I was laid low by a cold all week and didn't get the cake in the mail. Luckily her dad Ron is a chef-extraordinaire and hopefully he'll use the recipe to make Claire the cake so she and Marii, her mom, can enjoy our gift nonetheless.

Claire understands intuitively the power of a homemade gift. When we visited San Francisco in July, we stayed with them. I happily joined Ron and Michelle in cooking a dinner of farmers' market produce. In appreciation, Claire gave me 2 drawings, a whimsical rabbit and a colorful collage. Like her grandmother, Joanie, and Michelle's dad, Warren, she's a talented artist. I cherish those drawings because what she gave me was a gift of herself and that's a treasure.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

Yield 8 to 10 servings

Time 90 minutes

Ingredients
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Method
  • 1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint the inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan, then put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (The frozen butter prevents the batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet bake the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so; let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.
  • 2. In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir well and set aside. In a mixer use the whisk to cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, half and half and whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time, being careful not to over-beat. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to blend in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan; it will only fill the pan half-way.
  • 3. Bake the cake in a 350 oven for 60-70 minutes, turning the pan every 20 minutes so the cake cooks evenly. Test to see if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. When the skewer comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place it on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, putting it back on the wire rack to finish cooling.
  • 4. Just before serving dust the top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Jersey Shore: Mandolettes and Mandelbrot

Like many people, we're taking an end of summer trip. This time of year makes us appreciate those things that fill us with joy. Spending time with friends and family, having leisurely meals, taking long walks on the beach, and, special to this summer, watching the Olympics and following the political campaigns.

More than usual, the fall will bring big changes to our household because our son, Michael, is preparing to leave for his freshman year at college. So it was important to find time to take a trip to New Jersey to visit with Michelle's parents.

With few exceptions, Michelle's extended family has stayed on the East Coast. A few years ago they had a family reunion at a nearby resort and 75 aunts, uncles, and cousins came for the weekend. Sunday at Helen and Warren's means brunch for 20, setting up a table in the living room, bringing out the folding chairs, and sharing platters of bagels, lox, coffee cake, cold cuts, cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, fresh fruit, and lots of Helen's special iced coffee.

This trip Helen and Warren taught Michael how to play bridge because bridge is one of the intramural activities at UC Davis and Michelle's parents are bridge mavens. We ate lobsters, a rare treat, because StopRite, the local mega-supermarket had them on sale for $5.99/pound. And Helen made us mandolettes and mandelbrot from a family recipe.

During the year we're the happy recipients of Helen's cookies, but this time we enjoyed being in the kitchen while she made them for us. Luckily there were enough left over so we could take some with us, although not many survived the plane trip home. They are so delicious.

Mandolettes

Yield: about 2 dozen
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a cookie sheet. Mix the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick. Using a spoon mix in the flour, lemon rind, and cinnamon, then add in the dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips. Mix well.

Put the batter on the cookie sheet, making 2 strips 2" wide.

Bake 16-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Slice into 1/2" cookies while still warm. Transfer to a rack and let cool. Store the cookies in an air-tight container and refrigerate. They can be frozen.

Mandelbrot

Yield: about 2 dozen
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 pound walnuts (roughly chopped)
3 cups flour

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, salt, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth and custard colored. Add the baking powder and flour and mix well, then fold in the chopped walnuts. Form the dough into three logs about 2" wide and a foot long. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. While still warm, slice into 1/2" wide cookies. Place the individual cookies back on the cookie sheet and return to the oven for another 5 minutes and brown on both sides. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Keep the mandelbrot in an air-tight container. They can be frozen.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Easy Summer Meal of Heirloom Tomatoes and Sautéed Chicken Breasts

A good friend had a problem: his wife's birthday was a week away and he had to organize a dinner for 25. Clay likes hosting Lesli's birthday party but doesn't enjoy the pressure of putting together the meal. In the past he had side-stepped the stress by ordering out.

For many years, the dinner party was catered by Versailles a popular Cuban restaurant. This year he decided a pot luck dinner would make the meal more personal. Truth is Clay's talents lie in painting and photography and while he enjoys eating, he's happy to leave the cooking to others. But he had committed to preparing the main course and a side dish and even that felt burdensome. We discussed all this at our weekly Sunday brunch. I figured it was the manly thing to do to help him plan, shop, and prepare the dinner.

The central question was obvious: what to make for the main course that would feed 25 and wouldn't require a huge amount of time in the kitchen? In the winter, the obvious answer would be a roast or a comfort dish like chicken and dumplings. Since Lesli's birthday falls in the middle of summer when the air is warm and eating outdoors is the order of the day, something lighter was required.

Given that Lesli and my wife, Michelle, prefer simply prepared meals, we settled on easy-to-make grilled chicken breasts and Italian sweet sausages. For a side dish we talked about sautéed spinach, green beans with garlic and mushrooms, or grilled artichokes, any of which would go well with the grilled meats. In deference to eating locally, we made a plan to shop at the farmers' market the day of the party and decide what to make while we were at the market.

Saturday morning we met early at the Santa Monica farmers' market. Walking past the farmers' stalls we saw vegetables we hadn't thought about: summer squash and Japanese eggplants for grilling, plump carrots for a Moroccan flavored salad, and baby bok choy that we could stir fry with ginger, garlic and soy sauce.

Finally we settled on the obvious summer choice: a salad of heirloom tomatoes in a simple vinaigrette. Right now the profusion of tomatoes in the market is nothing short of phenomenal: Brandywines (red, yellow, black), Cherokee Purples, Green Zebras, even a sweet cherry tomato called Snow White.

We also saw fresh Italian parsley, shallots, ginger, and garlic. Those flavors could bring a helpful lift to the chicken breasts. We decided on a simple butter sauce and a crispy topping of bacon, shallots, garlic, ginger, and Italian parsley leaves.

The nice part about pot luck meals is you discover things you didn't know about your friends. Talking with Melissa about what she was going to bring, I learned that she and her husband had just gotten back from a trip to Napa. She happily applied her recent experience and brought a terrific platter of cheeses (each one with its own flag-label) accompanied by a fig spread, grapes, strawberries, and nuts.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
1/2 basket ripe heirloom cherry tomatoes (washed, stems removed, halved)
1 ripe avocado (washed, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped)
1/2 cup olives (cracked green or black, pitted, roughly chopped)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

On a very low flame heat the vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced to 1 tablespoon.

Cut the large tomatoes into quarters or chunks or slices--whatever you prefer--gently toss them with the cherry tomatoes, avocado, olives, olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Add cilantro or Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped.

Add red onion or scallions, peeled, finely chopped.

Chicken Breasts with Butter Sauce and a Crispy Topping

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (washed, pat dried)
4 slices bacon (finely chopped)
4 shallots (peeled, finely julienned)
2" piece of fresh ginger (peeled, finely julienned)
4 garlic cloves (peeled, finely julienned)
1/2 cup Italian parsley (washed, dried, leaves only)
1/4 cup sweet butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
6 cups safflower oil

Method

Make the crispy part first. Heat the oil in a deep pan like a wok so that when the ingredients are added and the oil foams up, the pan is deep enough that the oil won't flow onto the stove. You can tell this was a lesson I learned the hard way. Test the oil by dropping in a parsley leaf. If it crisps in 5-6 seconds, the oil's hot enough. Cook the bacon, ginger, garlic, parsley, and shallots separately. Have a slotted spoon or a fine-mesh strainer ready because they will cook in a few seconds. Remove each and let drain on a paper towel.

Drizzle olive oil onto a plate, then season with sea salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken breast half through the seasoned oil. Either grill the breasts on a barbecue or sauté in a medium-hot pan until browned on each side. Put the breasts on a plate and cover lightly with a piece of aluminum foil. Heat butter and chicken stock in a sauté pan and reduce until thickened.

Arrange the breasts on a platter, drizzle with the butter sauce, and top with the crispy bits.

Have a Picnic for Super Bowl Sunday - Kimchi Chicken Wings, Salads & So Much More

A week to go for Super Bowl Sunday and I have my menu planned. No chips or dips. No ordering in (although a sausage pizza with mushrooms, on...