kid food

peasplate

After years of roasting and grilling, sautéing and stir frying to make my favorite dinner staple, abundant big platters of veggies, I’m returning to the food of my childhood, boiled vegetables!

To be honest, with a twist but an interesting u-turn in my culinary journey.

It started in Northern England last year when we scarfed down fish n chips n mushy peas in the village pub.
What a revelation.
Not the khaki, grey-green gruel I remembered from a tin, but bright green smooshed peas, still with some texture, masses of flavor and a hint of mint.
A perfect sauce and condiment for crispy fried fish.

Then one night in Sydney, a few months later, we met up with friends at an old pub in the Rocks, a tiny noisy place nestled underneath the famous bridge.
It was pie night, the special being a Beef and Guinness pie served with mushy peas. $10.
Brilliant.
Once again, a vibrant pea puree, a delicious counterpoint to the buttery pastry and super rich meaty filling. The only accompaniment served.

Back home in California , mushy peas became our veggie of choice when we served baked barramundi, grilled salmon or little fried tenders of chicken.
Fun on the plate and so easy to make.

It really couldn’t be more simple.

peaingup

A couple of cups of frozen peas ( a medium bag)
1 onion ..white or brown , but even red will work
a bit of butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
some mint from the garden

Chop the onion and sweat in a pan with a little olive oil. Try not to color the onion, so keep the heat low. When the onions are soft, add a little butter to melt and add flavor.

Boil the peas for 5 minutes and drain.

Put the onions and peas in the food processor , add a tiny bit of water if necessary and pulse a couple of times.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add some chopped mint and pulse again.
peapans

peaonion

It can be left chunky or become a silky, smooth puree depending on what you like or are serving it with. Rustic or glamorous? Lots of mint or just a hint?
Lusciously extravagant with a little heavy whipping cream and fresh parmesan for a truly decadent and elegant side…

Kid food for grownups.
Perfect.

peasdone

owl time

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That not great moment when you realize you are a cliche….

I named my children Emily and Will, although Bodhis and Hazels will probably be in the same situation soon : most popular names of the decade.
I restored a vintage RV (actually ahead of the curve that time).
Cracked up over a funny story about a woman of a certain age who wore linen pants and red necklaces until I noticed I was wearing linen pants and a red necklace.
Did a detox retreat.
Love my Prius.
Started writing a blog

The final straw.
I have owls on my bookcase and I take photographs of signs when owls are featured.

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To be truthful I haven’t bought owl paraphernalia in at least 5 years but that’s because owls are EVERYWHERE.

Apparently the best selling design on children’s bedding, bibs and backpacks, owl designs are a slam-dunk twofer that work for boys and girls and help keep the design flow working in houses that don’t want to celebrate the neon pink Mattell decor or cartoon vibe. .Parents love the wise old owl and the thinking-caring, affluent-aware parents are so over the princess and pirate thing.

owlcook

Graphic designers can really work with a bird with big eyes and a round, round shape, and it’s a gift show truth that baby animals with big eyes are guaranteed to tug our heart strings, in particular white fluffy babies with big eyes. ( remember the white seal posters and the baby polar bears , oh and the snow monkeys)
Jonathan Adler , über potter and savvy marketeer knew what he was doing when he created dozens of iconic owl pieces. White design owls rule the cash register.

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A Pinterest page called OWL Designs has 494 owl pins and 515 followers.Super popular Ukranian fashion blog is actually called Owls are Awesome and there are Facebook pages devoted entirely to these charismatic creatures. I blame Winnie-the- Pooh and Harry Potter in that order.

owl hand

Last week I heard an owl hooting.So we ran outside, up the street trying to discover the source of the sound however the trees were so tall and wintery darkness thwarted our attempts to see a real live owl. A neighbor had a big owl swoop past her as she sat in the backyard and a birdwatching friend told me they are “everywhere” and I should be able to see one if I looked in the right place.

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Owls are prehistoric , feared and revered in ancient and contemporary cultures,solitary and nocturnal but apparently not as smart and wise as we imagine.

But damn if they aren’t the coolest design icon ever…at least for now.

owl

Beryl’s Scones

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My mum, Beryl, loves nothing better than a good “Devonshire Tea”…

I can’t measure the miles we’ve driven or the times we’ve travelled to out of the way craft shops and cafes in small towns ‘cos mum heard they “did a good afternoon tea”.
And understand that “good” is more than just good – it’s an all encompassing concept that includes the tea, the presentation, the staff or owner, the cups, saucers and plates, and finally the scones and cream!

Good afternoon tea: 2 fresh scones, whipped cream, option of butter and homemade jam. Nice cups and saucers. Good sized teapot, preferably one not individual pots. Tea strainer if needed. Cosies optional.

The irony is, rarely are the scones anywhere near as good as mum’s.
Too often dry and chewy (heresy) or gummy and heavy (sigh with disappointment) we spend almost as much time discussing the dreadful attempt as actually enjoying those that pass the test!
“Most people just can’t make a decent scone these days”
This is followed by remembrance of bad scones past and the worst offenders if known by name.

teacakes

Beryl downplays her cooking, and scones in particular, with a ” Well…..I don’t do that much now” which reduces the rest of us to out loud laughter. Open up the kitchen cupboards and there are tupperware boxes with little jam drops, pastry cases for lemon curd, coconut or shortbread cookies and maybe a slice or two (hopefully the caramel one, but there’s an almondy apricot one that runs a close second).
Then in the freezer at least 6-8 scones from the last batch “just in case someone pops in”.

No greater sin than having to offer a store bought biscuit to accompany the cup of tea. Better to go the savory route with cheese and tomato on crackers than plate the Iced Vovos or Kingstons for company.

Beryl’s tips for scones: make them quickly with as little handling as possible (easier said than done!).
And note that the recipe is just a starting point as she doesn’t use commercial measuring cups but rather a particular tea cup and spoons from the drawer.

2 cups of self raising flour
2 dessert spoons of caster sugar
1/2 cup of cream (heavy whipping cream in the US)
1/2 a cup of milk
1 egg

Beat the eggs and sugar till creamy. Beryl uses a hand mixer.
Stir in the cream and milk.
Add the flour, mixing w a knife.

Flour the counter and gently pat out the dough.

Cut out the scones w/ a cutter (or a teacup or empty tin can)

Place on a tray, brush with an egg wash or a little milk, and bake in a 200 degree C oven for 12-15 minutes (fan forced/convection). Serve with freshly whipped cream (absolutely no sweeteners or flavoring) and good jam.

Hierarchy of Jams:
Dark, rich berry jams like blackberry, raspberry, strawberry or blueberry. Maybe a goopy sticky apricot. Or go avant grade w tropicals like mango-ginger or pineapple guava. Lemon or passionfruit curd may be ok (and in our mind a little pretentious) but never a marmalade, which are just for breakfast and toast!

sconeclock

A visit to the UK and exploration of Devonshire and Cream Tea haunts confirmed what we already knew: the aussie bush version was better. Mum didn’t take to the clotted cream, or heavy triangular scones we had in Scotland but she did love that everywhere we went there was strong black tea in a pot, served with milk and sugar and a pretty plate of cakes.

teapot

Special once in a lifetime pilgrimages to Fortnum and Mason and Claridge’s were amazing, beautiful and ritualistic with silver service, petite sandwiches, specialty Darjeelings and tiered cake stands full of eclairs and petit fours.
Never to be forgotten, but we couldn’t wait to get back home and have scones from Beryls oven, dollops of whipped cream, yummy home made jam and bolstering amounts of Liptons tea.

Afternoon tea heaven.

And from across the other side of the Pacific  I think maybe any afternoon tea with my mum is heaven 🙂

mum

Sweet Lucie’s

When Mike and Geri Czako first founded Sweet Lucie’s, their organic ice-cream company, they were renting the Nosh kitchen after hours to create and perfect their signature flavors and premium product, seemingly years into a painstaking restoration of their 1959 vintage ice cream truck and juggling full time careers in advertising and business…

and parents of a very sweet little one year old girl called Lucie.

sweet trckedt

Fast forward to 2014: hundreds of appearances and events under their belt, products on the shelves at WholeFoods and speciality retailers, collaborations with artisan bakers and a whisky producer, and a new addition to the Czako family, a baby boy, Jack.

sweet jack

From a craving for ice-cream when she was pregnant with Lucie and a desire to eat well and organically, Geri is justifiably proud of the company she and Mike have created and their USDA certified organic product.

They now produce over 28 flavors and 18 fresh fruit sorbets (plus toppings and sauces)
at their immaculate manufacturing facility in San Pedro. All made from scratch in small batches using locally sourced ingredients. Banana, Black Sesame, Blueberry Pie, Butter Pecan…and that’s just the B’s!

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Their yummy ice cream and iconic truck are much in demand for celebrity and media events, and both the truck and the very cute gelato carts have been featured in magazines (Sunset and C to name a couple), pop videos (Katy Perry!) and catalog shoots (the adorable Pottery Barn Kids).

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The company is now full time for Mike and Geri, with leaps forward almost every week: a brick and mortar store to open soon on the Westside, Sweet Lucie’s now scooped on the USC Campus, and even more flavors and ice cream treats being added to the mix.

http://www.ilovelucies.com

The world is your oyster.

osterpearl

I thought when I started writing this blog that I would be mostly sharing stories about food.
What I mocked. What I cooked. What I loved or loathed. Maybe my adventures in the food industry, off and on for 30 years.

However, it seems people or poems or places occupy me and it made me ask myself, “what food DO I love?”

The answer came in a long, tedious and still not completed transfer of photos from my old to new computer.

What treat is documented every time I indulge?
How many photos do I have of oysters in my files?!
Guess what I could eat every day??

oyster ny

As a kid I was mystified by my dad’s love of oysters… straight from the rocks, opened with his penknife and slurped down immediately. We would walk for miles along the river just hoping to find a renegade, a freebie not on an oyster lease, waiting to be devoured.

oyster window

Second best, a jar of opened: squirrily looking jars of grey floaty gobs in brine.
Mum would turn them into Oyster Vol au Vents. Oysters in a rich creamy sauce and baked in the oven until we couldn’t wait any longer… nothing like a cheesy sauce and buttery pastry shells to turn doubters into lovers.

On those rare nights out at a restaurant (probably the RSL Club) we would be allowed to share a plate of Oysters Kilpatrick.

oysteracme

Broiled with a little bacon and Worcestershire Sauce, it’s still a favorite: freshly shucked and perfectly “just cooked” with crispy, salty, smokey bacon.

oystercoffin

My first fall into oyster oblivion (heaven) came one weekend at college when we camped at a friend’s place on the coast. His family owned oyster leases so we gathered buckets full, threw them on an improvised grill over a fire and waited as they popped open. Warm and juicy. No frills. Accompanied by hoots, hollers, beer and wine.

A favorite from then on.

oyster harvest

2 years ago, bored with the Thanksgiving routine we drove downtown to Los Angeles Fish Co, struggled out with as many as we could afford and set to opening, in-between turkey prep, household art direction and cooking chores.
2 oyster knives and 2 chain mail gloves from the kitchenware store and we were ready to go.



oysterrock

Slow to start, our speed picked up and by the time thursday afternoon arrived we had platters of Oyster Rockefellow and Oyster Kilpatrick ready for the oven as well as iced trays of Kumamoto and Malpeque.
Some mignonette dressing (re wine vinegar, shallots and onion), some lemon, sweet chili for the beginners, and it was time to celebrate.

oysterwill

And did you know Oysters were served at the first Thanksgiving? Justification indeed!

Road Trips Rule

road best

 

There is nothing so awful that can’t be improved by a road trip..( and not to trivialize truly tragic, awful things).

Give me that moment, the heightened sense of expectation as the car is loaded and the house is locked.

Time for an adventure!

The best place for a road trip is my adopted home, the US of A.

Along with great good roads, cheap gas ( and my baby Prius) , you can’t help but stumble upon mythic otherworldly landscapes, folk art extravaganza and weirdly quaint, niche businesses, cultural icons of every sort: the place where the movie was filmed, the star was born, the songwriter died, the poet or the president lived, the novel described.

Uber Americana as far as the eye can see!!

road 1 Note: The best trips start here in the West. (Sorry, but explorations of the green East are never as epic.)

From LA there’s a first long day of driving to get anywhere. Brutal moonscapes, big dry mountains, stretches of interstate, desolate and dissolute…life slows and one becomes introspective. Alone, I talk to myself- animated arguments or rants, poetic and witty observation or sing at the top of my lungs, favorite songs over and over. ..and over and over again.

Bliss.

road nm
With a friend or husband, it’s hours of chat, sometimes a nap, but definitely a stop at the In & Out in Barstow, or at the bottom of the Grapevine. Opens at 11am, perfect timing to get that fast food monkey off your back AND in a social justice, sorta healthy way. From now on, it’s picnics,fruit and nuts and margarita dinners.

roadiburger Depending on the direction, the first night can be Grand Canyon or Chinle, Winslow or St George, Utah , maybe San Francisco or Tuscon. The West rules!!

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When it comes to beds on the road the trick is to alternate .Cheap as chips ( but clean, not scary) OR ultra splurgy .  The more remote and less traveled, the more meaningful the historic hotel/motel becomes.

Often the mainstay of what’s left in main street, they hold the stories, the economy, the history and the community within their walls. Think La Posada, Winslow or Hotel Capitan, Van Horn Texas, Price Tower, Bartlesville OK, Hotel Paisano , Marfa …cool architecture and public spaces .

They are the historic beating hearts of their town.   hotel2The other useful rule of thumb:the further you are from a city, the better the Motel 6 ! Chatting to the chic woman in black at the concrete Motel 6 pool in Utah as we watched  kids swimming (yes,an editor of German VOGUE) I was reminded of how the Euros travel in the Southwest: clean cheap beds, bespoke tours and helicopters at sunrise.

road666 My necessities. A cooler on the back set with picnic stuff (fruit, salad and water), tea kettle and caffeine supplies ( hot, black tea w non fat milk & sugar for when I open my eyes), wine (not always available ), lots of paper maps to spread out and see the possibilities, story books to read and whatever device to photograph.

Sunglasses, swimmers, hat and sneakers. A phone.

An excuse to get in the car ( destination, baby) and at least a week or more… mmmmmmmm

Thank you Beatrice

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She’d got used to being stuck.
but suddenly
Beatrice calls

and lures her forward
with saris and pots

mama of dada,
lover of love
vessels and vases

So tired when she started
and now such joy
Susan’s joy!

Time stretches but nothing looms…
shapes and songs and words appear

brooms sweep
making a place
My space.

muses, craft and beauty beckon…lustre and grace

BW in red sari