Clams & Chorizo. I love Chorizo.

Clamschorizo

As thoughts turn to the grand finale of summer you’d be perfectly within your right to be confused. Record heat across the country makes it feel as if we’re smack dab in the middle of summer and far be it for me to complain about beautiful hot weather. However, after this weekend of beer and barbecue I think I’ll be ready for a slight change of pace. My summer started very early and months later I’m looking forward to some autumn things trickling into the market. Add to that a winter photo shoot on Wednesday with the amazing William Smith (my first time shooting with him! YES!) and you can see why I am all sorts of restless.

Something tells me turkeys, pumpkin pies and yule logs in 104° weather is a sin.

Anyway, I wanted to jump start my fall by making a dish that normally means hearty autumn. Well, as much as it can without involving the actual foods of autumn — pears, pumpkins and squash, I’m coming for you! It’s a basic dish of clams with chorizo and it’s a perfect weeknight dinner that instantly takes me back to Spain. I wonder if it’s 104° there right now.

Sigh.

Steamed Clams in Wine with Chorizo From Epicurious

You may notice we used mussels in the photo. Adam was insistent on mussels for some reason. Me? I’ll eat whatever.  And like I need to say this but you’ll want to make sure you have extra bread to sop sop sop all the goodness up.

Ingredients
1 medium onion, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 lb littleneck clams (2 inches wide), scrubbed
1/4 lb dried Spanish chorizo (spicy cured pork sausage) links, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Method
Cook onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, and salt in oil in a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in wine and bring to a boil.

Add clams and chorizo, then boil, covered, until clams open, 7 to 8 minutes. (Discard any clams that are not open after 9 minutes.) Season with pepper and stir in cilantro.

Makes 2 servings.

If You Can’t Laugh At Yourself…

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From a Los Angeles County Fair commercial:

An older couple approach a stand at a Pie Baking Contest. Behind the counter are two very typical Southern California girls and a very attractive-yet-cosmetically-enhanced mother.

"What kind of pie is this?" asks the gentleman.

"An organic rainforest apple pie — made with non-genetically modified cinnamon!" boasts the mom.

"It contains no lactose, no fructose, or any other kind of tose!" squeals the girl in perfect Cali Up Speak.

"And it’s made with the recommended daily allowance of antioxidants and gingko biloba!" says the second girl.

The man takes a bites which renders a face of disgust.

"Oh my god!" the girl screams. "I think he really likes it!"

They all giggle and squeal.

God I freakin’ love Los Angeles.

Chimi-Love

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Would you like to see me whimper and wince? Then ask me to join you on
official Gourmet Magazine business in July but instruct me to keep it
under wraps until the September issue hits the stands. Luckily I’m
actually very good with discretion and secrets. But it gets hard when
you discover something in the process that you instantly fall in love
with and can’t disclose it. Until now, that is.

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Gourmet_coverBlessed by a temporary afternoon reprieve from the hot humid weather, I
spent a Saturday afternoon running around with my friend Marisa while
in New York City last month. As Chief Research Editor for Gourmet
Magazine she asked if I’d join her as she fact-checked a few locations
for an upcoming story. Being the professional editor that she is I was
only allowed to know we were checking addresses, tasting some food and
nothing more. However, after stopping by a few taco trucks a developing
sense of the subject matter became quite obvious. And now that the
September issue is out and I’ve read Robb Walsh’s feature on taco
trucks and a story on Dominican food from Junot Diaz I know exactly
what we were doing.

While I’ve only recently been introduced to Dominican food, tacos are in my
DNA. Combine one of my favorite foods with convenience and portability
and you’ve created a perfect experience. That’s why I love taco trucks;
it’s a culinary experience set in an environment that strips away any
sense of pretense or romance. Focus on the tacos and the sights and
sounds of everyday life become the setting. It’s an act I appreciate
yet one I clearly don’t take advantage of enough. It seems that here in
Los Angeles we’re always in our cars, zipping from point A to point B.
I simply must break this sad pattern and hit those trucks! Thank you
Mr. Walsh, as always.

Tacohorchata

But back to New York. We stopped at Tacos Express at 145th and Broadway
for tacos al pastor, washed down by a tepid horchata as we sat on steps
and shared some decent Mexican food. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a
big boy and can easily pound down a few tacos; it took great strength
to sample and not gorge myself that afternoon.

After checking intersections of a few places in Washington Heights
(taco trucks don’t have street addresses but apparently some have web
sites!) we made our way to the Bronx. The last on the list to check was
a Chimichurri truck on the corner of Msgr Francis J Kett and W 204th
Street. A Chimichurri Truck? Truck? It was a phrase that instantly
aroused and confused me. Having spent time in Argentina I thought I
knew chimichurri, the flavorful mixture of olive oil, garlic and herbs
that is a condiment for grilled meats. What I was about to discover was
something just as brilliant and delicious, something that left me
begging for more.

The Dominican Chimichurri.

We all have those food moments, don’t we? Those ever-important moments
of culinary discovery. Ok, perhaps you’re a chef or super well-traveled
and know all there is to know, but this boy is still finding so many
things out there that continually amaze me. And when we make those
discoveries do we curse the gods for keeping the food in question away
for so long and leaving our encounter to chance? Or do we praise them
for finally putting us together? I’m still trying to figure that out–
I’ll get back to you on that one.

So, that Chimichurri. Latin, yes, but this Dominican delight has
nothing to do with its Argentine counterpart other than sharing a name.
In the simplest of terms chimichurri is a Dominican hamburger. But a
burger of the highest, messiest order and one that left me swooning and
pining and all those other hyperbolic terms we love to use. Imagine a
soft bun, a patty, grilled tomatoes and onions, cabbage (sometimes
quickly pickled) and dollops of mayonnaise and ketchup. It’s messy,
greasy, and one of the tastiest things to pass my lips in such a long
time.

Cg

The next day, while having a Sunday afternoon beer in the East Village
with my sister, brother-in-law and friend Carolina, I let it slip that
I discovered a Chimichurri.

“What were you doing in my neighbrhood?” Carolina asked. I told her I
was under a self-imposed order of secrecy about the details but that I
could reveal my new obsession with this messy burger.

“Ah! You’ve discovered the pleasures of Chimis!” announced Carolina,
and with that she graciously took me under her wing and gave me some
background about my new favorite snack. Born in New York and raised in the Dominican Republic before returning to NYC, I met Caro through my friend Lito in San
Francisco. As we drank Hefeweizen and I asked a million questions, I
realized this was all too good to be true. I’ve discovered one of the
world’s best foods and I have my own personal culinary and cultural
attaché? Pinch me!

Carolina informed me that chimichurri trucks are common in Santo
Domingo and easily found all along El Malecon, the avenue that runs
along the ocean. She also tells me that they are easy to find in New
York, particularly in the South Bronx and Washington Heights, but we
both lamented that I may not have much luck back in Los Angeles. I told
her that I’d have to find a recipe and make it at home because this
chimi business was too good to only live in a memory. That’s when Caro
told me that she doesn’t make them at home. But then again why would
you when they’re so easy to find?

“For me, part of the charm of chimis is getting one in the street at 3
am. It’s perfect post-prandial food – greasy, tasty and a challenge to
your motor skills (to avoid the inevitable drips on your clothes),” she
said.

Dripping messy shirts? Greasy? 3 am? It’s like she was seducing me with her words!

I’ve since learned to create a pretty close stand-in of the Chimichurri
burger with a few alterations. And while it’s not the same as standing
on the street at 1am or sharing one with my friend Marisa on a train
platform in Washington Heights and sipping on a hyper-sweetened fruit
drink, it does come pretty damn close. And for that I’m thankful.

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Chimichurri_for_blog

Chimichurri: A Dominican Hamburger

adapted from Tía Clara’s site at Cocina Dominicana with gracious advice from Carolina!

It was a bit of a hunt to find recipes for this online in English,
but it’s certainly not difficult to make. Messy is key, and blending
the sauce ahead of time makes for easy assembly. This month’s Gourmet
Magazine’s recipe instructs a quick sauté of the cabbage but it will
make a huge tasty difference if you do a very quick pickle of the
cabbage in vinegar ahead of time. But it’s not necessary.


Ingredients

4 hamburger buns
2 pounds of ground beef
1/2 teaspoon of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, sliced into rings
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of oil
salt and pepper
oregano
ketchup
mayonnaise

Method

1. Mix meat, worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion cubes, bell pepper,
and add a pinch of salt, a pinch of oregano and a pinch of pepper.
Divide meat into four portions and form 4 patties. Brush a stove-top
grill with some of the oil and heat. Grill the patties, rotating until
they are well done.

2. Briefly grill tomatoes and onion rings. Turn down the heat at its
minimun and briefly cook the cabbage. Reapply some oil to the grill and
warm up the bread.

3. Assemble the hamburger and garnish with ketchup and mayonnaise.

Bits & Bites

Wow. I haven’t done a weekend round-up (even though it’s Monday!) kind of post in quite some time. I also haven’t blogged in quite some time, my apologies!

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Essencecupcakes

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How great is this? My partner Adam has been doing some amazing food styling lately and just recently completed a shoot with our friend William for Essence Magazine at Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson’s house. How beautiful are Adam’s cupcakes? Pick up this month’s Essence magazine and check it out. Way to go, Adam!

And damn if Jill Scott doesn’t look hot on that cover. God bless my curvaceous women!

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Groupshotcakeomarian

We were in San Francisco this past weekend and I’m almost embarrassed to share how much we crammed into 3 days. Zuni, Nopa, Bi-Rite, Miette Confiserie, Chez Panisse, and Tartine along with a going-away party for our best friends and a birthday party for a special little man. I’m stuffed on so many levels.

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Best things about this weekend? Chocolate Ice Cream with Bergamot Olive Oil and Sea Salt at Bi-Rite. And Pasta at Chez Panisse. The worst part? Missing Heidi yet again.

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Ok, really everything at Chez Panisse was the best part of the weekend. A special thanks to sommelier Jonathan Waters for such great care and service.

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Amy has a nice round-up about honey. And I managed to eat honey ice cream twice this past weekend. And then I remembered Ruth Reichl hates honey. And then I was sad.

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Speaking of Ruth, it’s great to see this month’s Gourmet Magazine and its focus on all things Latin. I’ll be blogging about my trip to the offices of Gourmet in the next few days as well as my new favorite food. And how cute Ms. Reichl is in person and how I’d love to own a wig that looks like her hair.

Heirloomaniac

Diarymattbites

Heirloommaniactag
I admit it. I’m a tomato junkie. But not just any tomato. Heirlooms. And how this came to be I’m not completely sure. It’s not like I grew up on a farm. And I know it’s not because I have romantic notions of plucking tomatoes off vines in some hazy late summer yellow-lit garden. But when summer rolls around the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, my body goes into automatic mode and my thirst for heirlooms sends me into a frenzy–all rational sense gone. I’m not afraid to admit it: I am an Heirloomaniac.

Thursday417pm

I’m racing down the 405 with precious cargo on the seat next to me. Four boxes of heirlooms are belted in and I must tell myself to wait. Wait until tomorrow when they’ve all been photographed and my job is over. But….. I…… I just can’t wait. I reach over and grab a Marvel Stripe. Chomp. At 64 miles an hour. Juice explodes and I’m a mess. I don’t care*. I’m glad I made it home safely.

Friday726am

ITomatopolaroid woke up early and tinkered around the studio. Had a few new surfaces to use and decided to shoot film, medium format. A few polaroid backs were stacked on the prop table waiting to be loaded, but I couldn’t stop
glancing over at the boxes. Yes, the boxes. Boxes of Marvel Stripes, Beefsteaks and Yellow Pineapples were ripening before my very eyes, their sugary acidic insides ticking away. I had to move fast.

1042am_6
My models cooperated beautifully. The camera loves those gnarly ridges and alien-like ripples…and so do I. After a few set changes I’m finished. I’m going to eat my models now. A serrated knife, sea salt and my mouth are all I need.

538pm_2

I took The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook off the shelf as I do every year, thumbing through the pages trying to find something to do with an heirloom that doesn’t involve immediate consumption while standing over the sink. My good intentions disappeared when I remembered Adam brought home burrata and there’s basil in the garden. Enough said.

912pm

Not quite a midnight snack, but a tomato with balsamic makes me happy.

Saturday815am_2

I get home after a jog with Lisa Shaw (on my iPod, I mean) and find myself ravenous. Two eggs from the Farmers’ Market make their way into frying pan, scrambled with olive oil and playing catch up to the tomato I’ve already begun to devour.
11am

My mother-in-law comes over and Adam desperately requests she not leave empty-handed.

239pm

This is the first quiet Saturday I’ve had at home with my man and the pups in quite some time. I’m catching up on reading, petting miniature chihuahua heads, and doing something I’m not very good at – RELAXING. Relaxation is made better with a trip to the kitchen for one of my all time favorite sandwiches: Sliced heirlooms, good mayo, rustic bread. Hell, I’ll even take cheap mayo. A few leaves of almost-past-their-prime mache get layered on top of tomatoes and I sprinkle them with salt. My eyes roll back in my head as I struggle to eat the sandwich fast enough so that the tomatoes don’t create soggy bread. I succeed in my endeavor.

501pm

Adam asks if it’s really possible that I will exist on tomato-based dishes for 3 days. I tell him of course! And that I don’t need dishes to eat my tomatoes.

Tomato fatigue begins to set in with him; it hasn’t even entered my brain.

630pm

Is there anything that gets my tastebuds revved up faster than this? Gorgeous slices of tomatoes in a variety of gem hues, shavings of real Parmigiano Reggiano, a few capers and a drizzling of good extra virgin olive oil? I think not. Dinner is fantastic and I’m sad it’s over.

Sunday901am_2

I’d normally never say this, but go ahead, you can keep your french toast, your frittatas, your bagels and lox. I’ll happily eat my heirlooms and feel like I’m the king of the world. Nope, I’m not missing a thing. But then again, maybe a few slices of tomatoes on a bagel wouldn’t be such a bad thing? I reach for the toaster.

112pm

Yes, tomatoes again. But this time they’re joined by anchovy and garlic toast. And it couldn’t be easier. Sauté a few cloves of garlic in olive oil over low to medium heat for about 25 minutes until they are soft, mash with 1 or 2 anchovy fillets and oil from the pan in a morter and pestle and then spread on toasted bread. Inhale immediately.

443pm

Bloodymarys
Adam puts his foot down and tells me that enough is enough. To facilitate the intervention he’s invited our good friends Jennifer, Eddy and Troy to remove the remaining tomatoes, but not before we sit down to an Insalata Caprese grande and something from the grill. However, my addiction won’t let go that easily and I reveal my secret weapon that kept me in the kitchen during the afternoon: Heirloom Tomato Bloody Marys. Roasted heirlooms, tomato water, onion and jalapeño makes one hell of a drink. Besides, it’s Sunday afternoon, the perfect time for sharing a cocktail with friends. Or two. Or three. Or Se3grxen or Ei58gt.
812pm

Our guests leave, we clean up a bit, and I look at the last single tomato left on the counter from my weekend of debauchery. I begin to wonder: it’s not really indulgence when you consider how seasonal and special these types of tomatoes are, is it? Or is this an act of rationalization? I mean seriously, when life gives you heirlooms (4 cases to be exact), you eat them! Surely no one could fault me for that.

1014pm

My head hits the pillow as thoughts of bright greens and oranges and crimsons swirl through my head. I lost count of how many tomatoes we actually ate this weekend, but it doesn’t matter. As long as there is sea salt and olive oil in this world I’d do it all over again tomorrow.

Or at least next summer.

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Tomatoesroasting

I photograph heirlooms every year, and because of this I’ve been blessed with a surplus of tomatoes that has allowed me to indulge and experiment in almost every way imaginable (after I’ve snapped my shots, of course). Sorbets, aspics, sauces and salads are all made better when you use heirlooms, but if I had to choose my favorite method of preparation it’d be raw, hands down. Heirloom tomatoes are so incredibly special and I find in order to appreciate what a real tomato tastes like you need only slice and serve. However, tomato sauces are great ways to utilize an abundance of tomatoes since these gems aren’t genetically altered to last as long as their industrial cousins. OR,
you can just make Bloody Marys by the pitcher and forget where you’re at and wake up in the morning with tomato seeds stuck to the counter and little gnats buzzing around. Not that it’s ever happened to me.

Roasted Tomato Bloody Mary Mix

2 red heirloom tomatoes, quartered
1/2 onion, cut into large dice
1 jalapeño chili, stemmed
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup tomato water, see below
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice to taste

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spread the tomatoes, onions, and chili in a nonreactive roasting pan in one later and roast for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the vodka and tomato water to the pan and roast for another 15 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender, add the cilantro, and purée until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days. Makes 2 cups.


Tomato Water:
Take 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, chopped, and place them in a sieve set over a bowl and let drain for about 2 hours, or until tomatoes stop dripping. To further clarify the tomato water, strain it through cheese cloth or use a coffee filter. You can use the drained tomatoes in another recipe but note that it will be less watery.

Matt says: When you’re ready to make your Bloody Mary, add the Mary mix to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, vodka, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and however you prefer your cocktail. Add a dash of celery salt or pepper if you’d like, and garnish the glass with a celery stalk.

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*Always wash your fruits and vegetables.