Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Gardening

The Latin Dish: Free bimonthly magazine for the iPad

Latin dishI just downloaded a new free bimonthly magazine for the iPad called the Latin Dish from Via Vargas Media. The editor is Joe Vargas Bock, who writes in his letter to the editor, “Our goal for the Latin Dish is to celebrate Latin American food by exploring its distinctiveness and educating each other on its role in current society, its root cultures, and the way it has evolved, all while giving recognition to the ways in which each of us makes it our own.”

In the first issue is a tribute to Jacqueline Vargas Bock’s grandmother Hope Saldaña Vargas along with her traditional tamale recipe, which her daughters make every Christmas. There’s also an article on Austin eats and food trucks, the history of pralines (a Tex-Mex favorite, who knew?), a brief treatise on making tortillas (how about a video, too, so we can see how it’s done?) and an interview with Cuban American chef Fernando Saralegui of the family cooking show Papi’s Kitchen.

Edible landscaping pioneer Rosalind Creasy, author of “Edible Mexican Garden” Latin chef (Tuttle Publishing, 2000) has a story called “Cooking from the Mexican Garden.” That’s not everything in the table of contents, but enough to give an idea of where the publication is headed.

The first issue has a sweet homemade quality to it, especially the photos. If the staff can keep up the quality of the articles and cover the whole spectrum of Latin cuisine, the magazine could work. Definitely. But it can’t be just a family project. And it could use someone more knowledgeable to write about Latin wines. I’d love to see something on the Baja wine country and the chefs there. How’s that for a second issue theme?

Remember, the Latin Dish is free at the iTunes store. Check it out. And send in any suggestions to the editor at joe@thelatindish.com


For making quesadillas: a black clay comal

Highlights from MAD2 food symposium in Copenhagen

Fried chicken, five ways

-- S. Irene Virbila


Photos: Cover of the Latin Dish iPad magazine, chef Fernando Saralegui. Courtesy of the Latin Dish.

For the garden: Italian Seed and Tool

Italian Seed and Tool supplies Italian heirloom vegetable seeds, including the GEO line of certified organic seedNew to me: Italian Seed and Tool for Italian heirloom vegetable seeds, including the GEO line of certified organic seed. The seeds are from the Bavicchi company, which has been in the business since 1896. That's more than 100 years of experience.

Here in Southern California, it's not too late to plant from seed. Perusing the catalog online, I found seeds for agretti (also known as saltwort and roscana) and artichoke violetta Chioggia (a nearly spineless purple artichoke with deep purple coloring and a somewhat pointed shape) -- which can be eaten raw, dipped in extra virgin olive oil.

Among the bush beans, I came across my favorite, the borlotti "Lingua di Fuoco" ("Tongue of Fire") with mottled red pods up to 8 inches long. (It comes in an organic version as well.) The company has early Romano flat beans and the beautiful Supernano Giallo, a yellow Romano bean. If you love those big white Coco Bianco beans, you can find the seeds for that too.  

In the chicory category, I gravitate toward Chicory Da Taglio Bionda Foglie, "an Italian chicory with broad, rounded-straight-growing leaves, tender, light green, which send new shoots quickly after being cut." And the pale green, wavy Grumolo, which forms a ball-like head lettuce, or the light green tightly headed Chicory Mantovano "with wonderful flavor."

And I'm only to "C" in the alphabet. You can see how easy it would be to buy more seeds than would ever fit in the garden, at least in one season. I'll just check the broccoli rabe category, with seven different varieties and six types of fennel, including wild fennel.

There's also an arugula I've never seen before, called "wild olive leaf": "Rarely seen here in the U.S. this form of wild arugula is terrific as an accent for lettuce and other salads. Typical of the wild arugulas, it has a distinctive, more intense flavor than the cultivated types. The foliage has a beautiful light green color and smoother shape similar to an olive leaf."

Ever heard of Stridolo or Sclopit? I hadn't either. "Here's a unique green rarely seen here in the U.S., sometimes known as silene or bladder campion. [bladder campion?] Used for flavoring salads, adding to omelets and soups, and of course our favorite, risotto. It can also be cooked like spinach. A wonderful addition to any garden or a farmers market offering," reads the catalog copy. This I have got to try too.

And so it goes.


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Test Kitchen tips: Makeshift panini press

Here's what's rotting at David Chang's Momofuku lab

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo: Bruno Bavicchi and the first seed store in Perugia, Italy, around 1930. Credit: Italian Seed and Tool Company


Feeling lucky, punk? Ghost chile pepper comes to L.A.

PepperI was at my favorite nursery this weekend, shopping for my summer garden, when this sign caught my eye. Attention, chile-heads: Now you can grow the hottest peppers in the world, right in your own backyard. I'm not sure why you would want this, but I almost picked up a plant just to play with the squirrels that seem to beat me to the harvest. That would certainly send them up a tree.

I'm playing it safe in the garden this year. We're only a couple miles inland and the combination of cool summer temperatures and relatively high humidity have thwarted all my attempts to grow heirloom tomatoes and zucchini. Every year I put in Brandywine and Cherokee tomatoes and cocozelle zucchini with big dreams, but the tomatoes never ripen and the zucchini faints from the mildew like somebody's maiden aunt. So this summer I bought just Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and Celebrity and Early Girl slicers. I got some lemon cucumbers and Blue Lake Green beans. And so we'd have something to pick while we're waiting for those to get ready, I scattered watermelon and French breakfast radish seeds among the tomato starts.

But I still want zucchini. Does anyone have any tips for controlling mildew? Maybe I ought to just spray them with Bhut Jolokia puree.


Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

--Russ Parsons

Photo credit: Russ Parsons/Los Angeles Times

The aperitif hour: Fava beans and pecorino

FavasThis time of year, when fava beans are in season, one of the easiest snacks with a glass of wine is the classic fava beans and pecorino. In Rome right now outdoor market stalls display heaps of the fat green pods. And on May Day, legions of Romans will head out to the countryside for a picnic that includes raw fava beans and pecorino Romano.

I’ve got a bed of fava beans growing in my garden right now, but they’re easy to find at the farmer’s market, too. Serve them in the pod heaped on a platter. The idea is to sit around drinking a crisp cool white, shelling the beans, sprinkling them with sea salt and popping them into your mouth. Alternate with bites of pecorino. That sharp saltiness against the slightly bitter grassiness of the beans is wonderful with Sauvignon Blanc. I like one from Venica & Venica in Friuli.

A friend who grew up outside Rome told me that in spring his grandmother would make cacio e pepe (spaghetti with pecorino and cracked black pepper) with fava beans. Sounds good to me.

Continue reading »

L.A.-based Scout Regalia's garden kits

PATIO_GARDEN-02 600Spring is near. If you are thinking about going beyond last year's efforts of purchasing CSA boxes and farmers market produce to finally start that back-door or balcony garden, now is the time to consider.

Scout Regalia, a Los Angeles-based multitasking design practice in Echo Park, has a few options to kick-start your garden with do-it-yourself or assembled garden kits and reusable garden tags.

The company, established in 2006 by Benjamin Luddy and Makoto Mizutani, enhances everyday living with designs that correspond with space, furniture, home products and sustainability. The design firm participated in HDTS 2011 at High Desert Test Sites last October in Pioneertown.

Also featured on Scout Regalia's website is "cutsheet project," a series of instruction sheets created to help with at home projects such as the do-it-yourself planting table.

The garden kits range from $95 to $200. Scoutregalia.com.


Pop-up dining in Venice

Test Kitchen tips: Flambé

Food events: Beerathon, Westside Connections and LACMA wine tastings

--Caitlin Keller

Photos: Scout Regalia.

Foundation grants first fellowships in organic plant breeding in U.S.

Tomatoes 600

Clif Bar Family Foundation has recently awarded the first fellowships in organic plant breeding in the United States.

The fellowships are funded through the foundation's initiative Seed Matters, which advocates the development and protection of organic seed systems. Those awarded fellowships will work to breed seeds that thrive in environments with greater variability and different ecological-agronomic conditions so farmers don't have to retreat to pesticides and other non-organic solutions for farming.

Professors and leaders in organic seed research overseeing the program include Stephen Jones at Washington State University, a plant breeder and the director of the Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center; Kevin Murphy at Washington State University, assistant professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences as well as a barley and alternative crops breeder; and William Tracy at University of Wisconsin-Madison, professor of agronomy and interim dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

So far $375,000 in grants have been issued to fund three PhD fellowship students for five years in organic plant breeding at two land grant universities — Washington State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kevin murphy 600


Test Kitchen tips: How to truss a chicken

Eat Beat: Pork schnitzel

Test Kitchen tips: Peppercorns

— Caitlin Keller

Top photo: Heirloom tomatoes. Credit: David Karp / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Dr. Kevin Murphy, right. Credit: Micaela Colley / Organic Seed Alliance

Very last-minute gift for kitchen gardeners: Seeds from Italy

Sfi-catalog-2012-coverOne of my favorite seed sources is Seeds from Italy, which brings in Italian heirloom vegetable seeds from Franchi Sementi, a company that's been family-owned for more than 200 years.

Right up until the last minute you can get a gift certificate in any amount from $10 to $300, good for anything on its website, www.growitalian.com. That means purple Roman artichokes, eccentric chicories and radicchio, cima di rapa, ciliegia piccante (spicy cherry peppers), big yellow peppers from Piedmont and red marbled cippollini onions, to name a few. If you want to collect your own fennel pollen, it's got seeds for wild pollen, too.

You can speed things up by ordering an email gift certificate. To send your giftee a catalog via snail mail to help in spending that gift, fill out a catalog request with your recipient's name and address. The new edition comes out just after New Year's.


Last-minute gift: Lucky Peach subscription

Champagne flutes with which to party

Sugar cookies from the "Holiday Cookies" e-book

-- S. Irene Virbila


Image: Cover of Seeds from Italy catalog. Credit: Seeds from Italy

Gardening classes at the Natural History Museum


In the spring, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County   will be offering gardening classes as part of its new workshop program.

Learn how to grow your own vegetables at home through the guidance of master gardeners Florence Nishida and Araceli Perez-Ocejo. Classes will be taught outside the Butterfly Pavilion and will showcase various gardening techniques, such as how to start from seed and transplant; how to grow organically,  without the use of pesticides or herbicides; how to create good soil; and how to appropriately feed and water plants.

Featured classes include "Best Cultivation Practices," to address watering, trellising, feeding, weeding, pest management, pinching and pruning, and "Feeding the Soil" which will focus on fertilizer types, uses, signs of deficiency and worm composting.

Classes are $25 for members (or $80 for all four classes in the series) and $30 for nonmembers (or $100 for all four classes in the series). For residents of ZIP Codes 90006, 90007, 90008, 90011, 90015, 90016, 90018, 90037, 90062 and 90089, classes are discounted to $15 per class (or $50 for all four classes in the series).

Exact dates have not yet been posted for the gardening classes; check the museum's website for updates or call (213) 763-3471 for more information.

900 Exposition Blvd., L.A., (213) 763-3466, nhm.org.


Cookbook Village

Restaurant roundup for the holidays

Monthly wine classes at the Huntington Library

-- Caitlin Keller

Stocking stuffer: Victory Garden of Tomorrow propaganda posters

Poster 2 600Portland, Ore.,  resident Joe Wirtheim has a background in graphic design and communication studies. In the midst of political debates back in 2004, Wirtheim decided to start making retro-style propaganda posters. A year later, he began a self-commissioned poster art project called the Victory Garden of Tomorrow, to inspire and educate people.

His artwork stems from vintage propaganda and advertising posters, particularly those produced during World War II, as well as the 1939 New York World's Fair. In them he propagates ideas of simple living with graphics that read, "Help Harvest," "You Serve When You Preserve" or "Can All You Can." Wirtheim hopes his campaign encourages or, better yet, reminds people to be mindful of their duty to keep the Earth clean by recycling, composting, growing one's own food, preserving and eating local. Poster 600

Posters from the Victory Garden of Tomorrow can be purchased at the campaign's online shop or through Etsy. Prices range from $12 to $40.


ArtBites covers the history of desserts

50 of our favorite holiday cookie recipes

More stocking stuffers: Teak measuring spoons

-- Caitlin Keller

Credit: Victorygardenoftomorrow.com

When to plant what: A gardening calendar for SoCal

Calendar 2 600

Elinor Nissley owns and operates Krank Press, a letterpress company based out of Silver Lake. Incorporating woodcuts and drawings into her hand-printed works, Nissley's creations include gardening calendars for specific growing regions such as the Bay Area and Southern California.

Each calendar month features a linoleum block print of a seasonal fruit or vegetable and lists planting recommendations in addition to what's in season at the market. Calendars are not year-specific so they are a gift that keeps on giving for green thumbs and garden enthusiasts. The gardening calendars cost $20 and can be purchased on Etsy.

Picnik collage 600


Root vegetable love

Test Kitchen tips: Roasting garlic

Cooks County is open on Beverly Boulevard

-- Caitlin Keller

Photo: Krank Press


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.