Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Localism

5 Questions for Taylor Boudreaux

TaylorTaylor Boudreaux is the executive chef at Napa Valle Grille in Westwood. Boudreaux helped open several Los Angeles restaurants including Mastro's Steakhouse before being recruited to work as the corporate executive chef of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide. At Napa Valley Grille, Boudreaux emphasizes the importance of locally grown produce and "tries to keep up with Mother Nature and what's in season." 

What's coming up next on your menu? We will be featuring artichokes, fava beans, pea tendrils, asparagus, apricots and cherries. This is the time of year where it gets to be a lot of fun at the markets.

Latest ingredient obsession? Our house-made pasta. I love it. I love the texture, the flavor and how versatile it is. I'm working on a morel pasta dish that I think will be delicious.

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? When I can sneak out of the restaurant, I go over to 800 Degrees and get the picante pizza.  

The last cookbook you read -- and what inspired you to pick it up? "The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Cookbook." My mother gave it to me for Christmas. It's a great jumping off place for me. 

What chef has most influenced you? Charles Schwerd taught me how to run a kitchen. He had the mechanics down. Very methodical and very business-minded. I was then lucky that very late in my career I was hired by Wolfgang Puck to run his casual restaurants. As part of my training with him, I worked at Spago. It was an incredible experience. I learned an incredible amount from his chefs Sherry Yard, Matt Bencivenga and Tetsu Yahagi. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

1100 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 824-3322, www.napavalleygrille.com.

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Photo: Taylor Boudreaux. Credit: Napa Valley Grille.

Considering the chef as social conscience

G9 conference chefs The recent "G9 Conference" of eco-conscious chefs in Lima, Peru, has drawn the gimlet eye of British restaurant critic Jay Rayner of the Guardian newspaper in a column called "Reality Check, Please."

The meeting, officially titled the 2nd Summit of the International Advisory Board of the Basque Culinary Center, attracted an international group that included culinary man of the hour Rene Redzepi from Noma in Denmark; his predecessor, Ferran Adria from just-closed El Bulli in Spain; and France's Michel Bras. Apparently, a lot of heavy thinking was on the agenda. Among their pronouncements:

We dream of a future in which the chef is socially engaged, conscious of and responsible for his or her contribution to a just and sustainable society ... through our cooking, our ethics and our aesthetics, we can contribute to the culture and identity of a people, a region, a country ... we can also serve as an important bridge to other cultures ... we all have a responsibility to know and protect nature.

To which Rayner replies: 

Blimey.

Let's be clear. There is nothing wrong with a bunch of very talented, very serious cooks having these thoughts. The night they all sat around the fast-emptying bottle of Fernet Branca hugging each other, staring intently into each other's eyes and saying solemn things like "I am a bridge to other cultures" must have been a complete doozy. But there are some things which really should be kept behind closed doors. Yes, of course good chefs ought to be serious about their ingredients. Yes, they have a responsibility to source stuff ethically. But they also need to remember that they aren't secular saints. They are chefs cooking dinner for very, very rich people.

What do you think? Has the chef-with-a-social-conscience movement reached its peak? Or is it just beginning -- and not a moment too soon?

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-- Russ Parsons

Photo: From left: Chefs Dan Barber of the U.S., Rene Redzepi of Denmark, Ferran Adria of Spain, Gaston Acurio of Peru, Michel Bras of France, Yukio Hattori of Japan and Alex Atala of Brazil. Credit: Enrique Castro-Mendivil / Reuters

Pop-up dinner club: RnD Table

Chicano_shortrib
Cooking his way, nonprofessionally, to Gordon Ramsay’s "MasterChef" competition on Fox, Michael “Q” Kim impressed more than just at-home viewers, landing himself a position in the kitchen at the Bazaar by José Andrés in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. At the Bazaar, Kim met cook Conrad Malaya and RnD Table began to take shape.

Kim and Malaya wanted to give young chefs –- who usually spend their days executing someone else's vision -– the opportunity to express their own culinary visions, designing and delivering a menu entirely of their own... a rite of passage, if you will. The two culinary visionaries collaborated to create RnD Table, an underground dinner club giving cooks a shot at the limelight normally reserved for the kitchen big wigs, head honchos and top chefs.

The club's first few dinners will be hosted by its founders, Kim and Malaya, but future dinners can be expected to feature several versatile chefs from around L.A. and farther afield.

Follow RnD Table on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates on upcoming dinners, including dates and locations. The suggested donation is $60 per person, not including tip.

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Photo: Korean-Chicano braised short ribs, or galbi jjim.  Credit: Kenny Ahn

Canning it: Tools of the trade

Tools for Food Preservation by Rachael Narins Home preservation can and should be done inexpensively.  But it can also be a super-fun way to fill your cupboards with tools and gadgets specifically designed to extend the life of food.  If you are really interested in food preservation -- and you should be –- here are nine tools that can help you on your way.

  • Basic canning kit: If you have ever made jam, jelly or pickles, this should be in your pantry. By far the least expensive thing on this list, a kit consists of a jar lifter, wide-mouth funnel, magnetic lid lifter and a combination head-space measurer/bubble remover. Must-haves for anyone canning food.
  • Canning jars: Oh, Ball canning company, what would we do without you? Available at most grocery and hardware stores this time of year, the jar is the most vital tool in canning. Remember, the jar and ring are reusable (and if they survive long enough, collectible), but the lid needs to be replaced with every new use, so when you buy a set of jars, go ahead and get the extra lids too. You should never try canning in commercial pasta or mayonnaise jars, since they aren’t designed for reuse.
  • Swing-top bale-wire bottles: The perfect thing for showing off your beautiful cordials and homemade ginger ale.
  • Steam juicer: This amazing gadget, which can be ordered online from Finland, is perfect for anyone who owns a fruit tree or has an abundant garden. It makes short work of pomegranates, lemons, tomatoes and apples. Also doubles as a steamer.
  • Pressure canner: Once you’ve become (understandably) obsessed with canning, you should go all the way and get a pressure canner. Sure, they’re 21 quarts' worth of enormous, but it really is the key tool in canning shelf-stable products. Follow the directions and you will have a lifetime of canning fun. They need to be treated with care and recalibrated every few years, which can be done by the L.A. County Master Food Preservers free of charge.
  • Dehydrator: Make jerky, crackers, dried fruit and fruit leather. Think outside the box too. Try kale chips or pureeing salsa to make salsa leather, or how about banana mash and flaxseed crackers?
  • Home smoker: When you’re really committed to smoking, it’s time to invest in a hot smoker. Stovetop versions are available at finer cooking stores. Dedicated smokers can be found at grilling stores and hardware stores. Smoke preservation works for meats, vegetables and, when using cold smoke, dairy.
  • Vacuum sealer: For just under $100 you can own one of the modern marvels of home preservation. Friend to all, the vacuum sealer can be used for meat going into your freezer, for sealing food you intend to sous-vide and for protecting grains and flours. There is also a jar attachment, so you can vacuum-seal dry items using your canning jars.
  • Yogurt maker: Turning milk into yogurt is one of the oldest preservation techniques. Doing it with a machine is a lot more contemporary and a lot more fun. The difference between homemade and store-bought will impress you.

Los Angeles County Master Food Preservers are food-safety specialists trained and certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension. Support for the University of California Cooperative Extension, Los Angeles County, has been provided by the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation. The Master Food Preservers are volunteers who provide information and technical assistance to home preservationists in L.A. County. They can be found on Facebook.

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-- Rachael Narins

Photo credit: Rachael Narins

 

Home preservation can and should be done inexpensively.  But it can also be a super fun way to fill your cupboards with the tools and gadgets specifically designed to extend the life of food.

 

If you are really interested in food preservation – and you should be! – here are ten tools that can help you on your way.

 

Basic Canning Kit – If you have ever made jam, jelly or pickles, this should be in your pantry. By far the least expensive thing on this list, a kit consists of a jar lifter, wide mouth funnel, magnetic lid lifter and a combination head-space measurer/bubble remover. Must have’s for anyone canning food.

 

Canning Jars – Oh Ball Canning Company, what would we do without you? Available at most grocery and hardware stores this time of year, the jar is the most vital tool in canning. Remember, the jar and ring are reusable (and if they survive long enough, collectible) but the lid needs to be replaced with every new use, so when you buy a set of jars, go ahead and get the extra lids, too. You should never try canning in commercial pasta or mayonnaise jars, since they aren’t designed for re-use.

 

Swing Top Bale-Wire Bottles – The perfect thing for showing off your beautiful cordials and home-made ginger-ale.

 

Steam Juicer – This amazing gadget, which can be ordered online from Finland, is perfect for anyone who owns a fruit tree or has an abundant garden. It makes short work of pomegranates, lemons, tomatoes and apples. Also doubles as a steamer.

 

Pressure Canner – Once you’ve become (understandably) obsessed with canning, you should go all the way and get a pressure canner. Sure, they’re 21 quarts worth of enormous, but it really is the key tool in canning shelf-stable products. Follow the directions and you will have a lifetime of canning fun. They need to be treated with care and recalibrated every few years, which can be done by the LA County Master Food Preservers free of charge.

 

Dehydrator –Make jerky, crackers, dried fruit and fruit leather. Think outside the box, too. Try kale chips or pureeing salsa to make salsa-leather or how about banana mash and flax seed crackers?

 

Home Smoker – When you’re really committed to hot smoking, it’s time to invest in a hot smoker. Stove top versions are available at finer cooking stores. Dedicated smokers can be found at grilling stores and hardware stores. Smoke preservation works for meats, vegetables and when using cold smoke, dairy.

 

Vacuum Sealer – For just under a $100 you can own one of the great modern marvels of home preservation. Friend to all, the vacuum sealer can be used for meat going in to your freezer, to seal food you intend to sous-vide and to protect grains and flours. There is also a jar attachment, so you can vacuum seal dry goods using your canning jars.

 

Yogurt Maker – Turning milk in to yogurt is one of the oldest preservation techniques. Doing it with a machine is a lot more contemporary and a lot more fun. The difference between home-made and store bought will impress you.

 

Los Angeles Master Food Preservers are Food Safety Specialists trained and certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension. Support for the University of California Cooperative Extension, Los Angeles County has been provided by the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation. They are volunteers who provide information and technical assistance to home preservationists in L.A. County. The Master Food Preservers can be found on Facebook.

Cookbook Watch: Times Food editor Russ Parsons on growing your own with Sunset

One-block-feast-m At this time of year, the thoughts of even the most urban Southern Californian begin to turn to matters agrarian and bucolic. And, as it has been for more than 100 years, Sunset magazine is here to help. With its blend of gardening, travel and cooking, Sunset is as much a part of the California ethos as Craftsman furniture, Case Study houses and beach barbecues. Though the magazine may seem a little breathless at times, the core of information is always solid.

And because part of being a Californian these days, even in the most urban settings, means a fascination with that thing we're calling "locavorism," it was no surprise last year when the magazine devoted several pages to a project it called "the one-block feast." But several pages weren't nearly enough to cover the subject and so now they've turned it into a book called, fittingly enough, "The One-Block Feast." And it's pretty terrific.

Written by Sunset food editor Margo True and the magazine staff, it lays out in sufficient detail what you need to know to keep bees or chickens, grow tomatoes or morels, and make your own wine. There's also a very active blog called "The One-Block Diet" that furthers the conversation.

Though it's not a cookbook, per se, there are plenty of recipes, and they are just what we've come to expect from this old friend: sophisticated but not off-puttingly so. Summer recommendations include things such as watermelon-chile salad and lemongrass custards. They're one step ahead of the simply trendy, but one step behind the bleeding edge.

Whether you plan to grow hops to brew your own beer or simply want to know some good zucchini varieties to plant in your vegetable garden, this is a terrific place to start.

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--Russ Parsons

Cover photo courtesy of Sunset

Canning it: Preserving with alcohol

Cherries in Vodka
Preserving food is not just about canning tomatoes and making nectarine jam. The LA County Master Food Preservers are trained as volunteer educators to answer questions about preservation and fermentation; and that includes working with and making alcohol -- such as brewing beer, making cordials and using alcohol as a preservative. Unfortunately for those of you who want to distill at home, that's still illegal. No matter how much you want to build a still, the federal government says no.  Alcohol is fun to brew, though, and is a fantastic preserving agent, since at 80 proof/40% alcohol by volume no bacteria can survive in it.

Peaches in brandy are a classic and delicious marvel of food preservation. We love plums in whiskey and citrus in vodka--though that may really be more about the vodka than the citrus. And if you have a surfeit of vanilla pods, what better way to preserve them than in a big bottle of inexpensive rum -- creating vanilla extract. The flavor doesn’t dissipate, it never spoils and you can use it for years if stored properly.

All you have to do is slice the beans –- about four per liter -– lengthwise, add to the alcohol, shake and store in a cool, dark place for a few months. When the brew is nice and dark, you can use it as is and also strain out the beans, let them dry a bit and use them for baking, though they won’t be as potent.

Continue reading »

Dinner for one

IMG_0833 
I’ve never felt uncomfortable eating alone. In fact, as long as it only happens  every once in a while, I look at it as kind of a treat. Or, at least, an opportunity to treat myself. So when my wife left town for a few days to visit friends, I took full advantage.

Friday night I celebrated my temporary bachelorhood with my semi-annual hamburger at Bake ‘n’ Broil. After 20 years of eating there, one of the owners, Andy Child, has become a friend and he very thoughtfully tucked in a portion of their brownie pie for me to take home.

But the real treat was Sunday night. What with one thing or another, it’s been a while since I have been kayaking, so Sunday morning I drove down to the Back Bay at Newport Beach and spent a couple of hours watching the terns and ospreys. As I almost always do, I finished with a visit to Pearson’s Port, conveniently located right next to the kayak landing.

Continue reading »

Racing against the tide for dinner

 

Think running out to the grocery store to shop for dinner is a hassle? Check out this video from the BBC on people of Kangiqsujuaq going mussel-hunting under an ice field in Canada, timing the low tide. If they take a minute too long, it means death. Of course, it does make a nice break from their usual diet of seal meat.

-- Russ Parsons

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Video credit: BBC

 

Canning it: The magic of dried food

Picture of dried beans

If you look around your kitchen at what food is fresh and what food is preserved you might be surprised. Everything in the freezer is preserved, as is everything in a can. A bag of beans, fruit leather rolls, that saucisson sec and the chile ristra are all preserved by dehydration.

Dehydration is really the easiest and most practical preservation technique for the home cook. Removing water to less than 20% by volume creates a product that is shelf-stable so that mold and bacteria have nothing to latch on to. 

Dehydrate your garden beans by leaving them on the stalk. When they’re completely dried and make a rattling sound when shaken, harvest and shell and they’ll last in a cool dry place for up to a few years. You can tie herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme in a bunch, hang upside down and in less than a week they’ll be ready to use or put into jars.

Try using a clean window screen laid over a few cinder blocks as a drying rack. Put figs or washed Roma tomatoes on the screen, leave them out for a few very warm days (covered with a net if you are worried about birds)and they will be nicely sun-dried. The end result should be pliable but not brittle. That’s one of the beauties of living in Southern California; we have the ideal climate for sun-drying. 

There are other ways to dehydrate without investing in extra tools. Lay out vegetables in a single layer on a rack and place it in the oven -- set as low as it can be -- and walk away for several hours. Check and turn periodically. This is a fantastic method for grapes, chiles and apple slices. Peels and odd scraps of carrots and onions can be dried in the oven, then ground and used as a seasoning. Oven-dried, pitted black olives are an incredible addition to a cheese plate.

When dehydrating, use quality produce without bruises or blemishes. If there is damage on your fruit or vegetables you’re more likely to end up with spoiled food.

Los Angeles Master Food Preservers are trained and certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension in food preservation. They are volunteers who provide information and technical assistance to home preservationists in L.A. County. The Master Food Preservers can be found on Facebook.

-- Rachael Narins

Photo credit: Rachael Narins

How does your summer vegetable garden grow?

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one inspired by a gorgeously sunny Sunday to hit the nursery and get started on my summer vegetable garden. My favorite local stop --  H&H Nursery in Lakewood -- was jam-packed, particularly the section selling vegetable starts.

Normally, I game-plan my summer garden like a college freshman on his first date. I’ll spend a couple months browsing the various catalogs and weighing the merits of pole versus shelly beans, this variety against that. Anticipation is part of the fun of gardening. Garden


But this winter was so crazy I wound up being spontaneous. I got some Blue Lake green beans to go up a trellis and Cocozelle zucchini to mound in front of them. As usual, one raised bed will be a lettuce mix.

I’ve gone back and forth about tomatoes -- living in Long Beach only a couple miles from the ocean, our May gray can last until early August, which does not encourage great fruit. Tomatoes would rather be in Bakersfield, and though I like my home-grown 'maters as much as anyone, that’s a sacrifice I’m not willing to make.

Gradually, I’ve whittled my selection from a dozen plants to probably half of that this year. I’ve got old favorite Brandywine -- I might get only a dozen or so fruits from it, but they are great -- and a couple of mini-tomatoes -- Juliet and SunGold. These fruit and ripen reliably even in cool weather.

That chicken-wire contraption you see in the front of the picture is my latest innovation. This is actually my second summer garden this year. The first I planted several weeks ago, but it was very quickly un-planted by the neighborhood cats, which regard my raised vegetable beds as super-deluxe litter boxes. So Saturday, a friend and I screwed together some 2X4s and topped them with chicken wire. Let’s see the kitties dig through that.

I’ve still got one raised bed to plant, sometime in the next few weeks after I harvest the last of the winter/spring crop of beets and shallots. It gets pretty good sun, so more tomatoes? Or do I go for eggplants and cucumbers? Or maybe something entirely different?

What do you suggest? And what have you planted in your summer garden?

-- Russ Parsons

Photo of tomatoes and cat-proof garden by Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.