And Yet I Know Nothing About Apple Farming. Hmm.

Farmer_2

File this under "Why I Love California #928" or "Farmers Rule", thankyouverymuch.


A few weeks ago I paid my regular visit to my local Farmers’ Market to get my produce for the week. I had my camera with me in an attempt to use up some old remaining film.

After stocking up on my weekly ration of Fuji apples, I asked if I could take a picture of the grower.

"Sure!" he happily exclaimed.

As I put the large boxy camera to my face and peered through the viewfinder, the farmer turned the tables and asked me a question.

"Hey, is that film or digital?" he asked.

"Oh, this is a film camera, medium format, 120 film, etc." I responded.

"Ah, excellent. You know they make some amazing digital backs for that Mamiya camera, great medium format digital stuff!"  he informed me.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I love living in 2008 (almost) almost as much as I love my growers and farmers.

Happy New Year to all!

Best. Year. Ever.

Card

Note: It must be the the time of year — this
blog has been light on the food and heavy on the reflection. Please
bear with me as I’ll be back to food in the new year!

How many people can say their dreams come true on a daily basis? I think I can.

With
just a scant amount of time left in 2007 I wanted to take a moment and
offer gratitude to each of you. This year has simply been one of the
most amazing years of my life and I must pause to say thank you.

I
do hope you’re not sick of me giving thanks; it’s something I learned
to do early on and an act I take to heart. Without thanking the powers
that be – including my friends, family and readers – I don’t think I’d
be able to appreciate all of life’s riches and experiences that are
before me. My heart is so full with dreams realized and happiness and
love and I owe every single bit of it to those all around me.

Personally,
this year began with an amazing repeat visit to Argentina with my
partner Adam and good friends Dana and Jason. Connecting with people
and sharing experiences with others a world away makes me a happier
person, and meeting everyone along that journey puts a smile on my face
as I type this. I love meat. I adore the open spirit and generosity of the folks in
South America and cannot wait to return. I’m also thankful to have
connected with so many people on the east coast this year through a few
trips to New York City.  First, my friend Alex has inspired me in way
he probably has no idea, and I’m glad to call him a friend. His sister?
Divine. And the amazing cast of characters that have welcomed me with
open arms and offered me a roof over my head: thank you. Mom, Dad,
Angela, Lori, Jim, DJ, Owen, Zoe, Joab, Lia — gracias.

Professionally,
well, back to that dreams coming true part. More happened for me
professionally in this year alone than I can even begin to comprehend.
First, I thank David for allowing me to be a charter member of the
Aperture Professional Users Group, putting me in the company of some
amazing photographers. And if you don’t use Aperture, well, get on
that, seriously!  I want to thank Martha & Meredith at Whole Foods
for asking me to teach a sold-out class and to everyone who attended it
in New York, and I want to thank Marisa at Gourmet Magazine for being a
friend. And since I’m on the Conde Nast tip, I want to thank rhe folks
at Bon Appetit for their time back in September. David Lebovitz, the
judge called. To Mario, un abrazo! To Jeff Kauck in Chicago, you are an
inspiration. A big giant thanks to Gabriel (you know why) and to Ellen
at Jupiter Images/ Foodpix for welcoming me into their world and
believing my work is good enough. To Jon & Denise & Cindie, a
million thanks and working on a book with you was amazing. To all my
fellow bloggers, Serious Eats and Culinate — I can’t thank you enough.
And to the folks who took a chance on a new photographer (or an old
designer, however you want to look at it) I am also deeply thankful for
the opportunities to work together. I never thought I’d be doing
something so challenging and rewarding and it fills me with such peace,
happiness and satisfaction.

And to my partner Adam? A more perfect man has never existed (ok, my
Dad, so Adam is #2).  I won’t get mushy here, let’s just leave it at
that. I could do nothing without him, plain and simple.

I sound like a damn broken record! Augh!

So what does 2008 hold?
Your guess is as good as mine.  There are some amazing projects coming
up and I’m being completely honest when I say I’m living the life of my
dreams and none of it would have ever happened without this silly lil
blog.

And I thank you.

Yes, you.

Everyone who’s stopped by, left a comment, sent an email, made me laugh and think — all this is for you.

I only hope I can give back as much as I felt I’ve taken.

Bless you all and I hope you have the best holiday ever! And 2008!

Oh, and try not to get too crunk with the New Year’s festivities, will ya?

Egg Nog and Sun Screen

Lbcollagelarge

Armed with a pocketful of outdated 120 film and a Mamiya 645 I hit the streets of my sleepy beach town this past Saturday morning to re-familiarize myself with film. Film! I have an assignment next month––my first international collaboration––and since I’m headed somewhere beachy and warm I decided to use Long Beach as a stand-in. Hey, my street doubles for the Miami neighborhood on the TV show "Dexter", it might be a decent stand-in of the Caribbean for me.

Ok, it wasn’t really. Not at all. But it was worth a shot.

As I walked around the beach, watching the joggers, bikers and volleyball games in action, it made me realize that while I’m filled with the Christmas spirit and visions of sugar plum fairies dance in my head, it can be a bit difficult to truly embrace the season when it’s sunny and warm with cool ocean breezes caressing your skin. But no matter where I am and where I celebrate, I’m blessed and happy to be alive and thankful for a season that truly brings people together.

Sometimes there’s really not much more you can ask for.

Braised Endive

Braisingingredients

Braisingbook
Well it certainly seems that this book hasn’t been the best for me. It’s honed in on my compulsive nature and practically forced me to braise anything and everything this past week.

Why was this never added to our collection until now? Where have I been all this time? Jeez.

And I know I know, braising as a primary cooking method can get a bit tiring if overdone; it is possible to become bored with a method that leaves everything soft, tender, and moist. Ok, that was a joke folks! I don’t think I’d ever get tired of braising if it’s limited to this time of year when I don’t mind neglecting the crunch of a baby spring vegetable or the snap of a green pea.

To me, braising equals comfort. However, I do need some variety in my life, and I love the fact that I’ve discovered recipes for braising vegetables. Growing up my mom made wonderful braised dishes like pot roast and corned beef and cabbage but I never thought of using vegetables as the featured ingredient. And why not? It seems as if braising makes everything better, and the addition of a little fat in the form of bacon or prosciutto, well, seriously, must I tell you how delicious that is?

(As I type this my Gourmet Weekly email newsletter arrived touting the pleasures of celery root, another fave of mine. Included in the email is a recipe for Braised Chicken with Celery Root & Garlic. I think I know what I’m making for dinner!)

Braisedendive

Braised Endive With Prosciutto from All About Braising by Molly Stevens

Clearly a recipe that’s greater than the sum of its parts. But then again, I do love endive and I do love ham. It’s hard to explain the silky texture of the cream with the endive and how utterly delicious it is with the most unique mouthfeel. The prosciutto is a wonderful contrast.

Ingredients
6 to 9 Belgian endive (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 thin slices of prosciutto (or Serrano), cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips with fat left on
coast salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream

Method
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a large gratin dish or baking dish (9-by-13-inch).

2. Trim the endive by removing the outermost leaves and trim the bottom if they appear brown or dried out. Cut each endive lengthwise in half.

3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat (nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron are good choices since the delicate leaves won’t stick or tear, but any decent skillet will do). When the butter just stops foaming, add as many endive, cut side down, as weill fit in a loose layer and cook until the cut sides are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the endive and brown for a minute or two on the other side. Transfer the browned endive to the grain dish, arranging them cut side up. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet and brown the rest of the endive. The endive should fit in a snug single layer in the gratin dish.

4. There should still be a film of butter in the skillet. Still over medium heat, add the strips of prosciutto to the skillet and turn to coat them with the butter. Tuck a few strips between the endive and drape the rest over the tops. Season with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the prosciutto is salty. Add the stock to the skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits, and pour the stock over the endive and prosciutto.

5. Cover the dish tightly with foil. Braise until the endive are collapsed and tender when pierced with a sharp knife and have a true burnished hue, 30 to 35 minutes.

6. Remove the foil and baste the endive by spooning over any juices from the pan. If the pan is dry, add 2 tablespoons of water. Braise, uncovered, for another 8 to 10 minutes, unitl the pan juices have turned a caramel color and almost completely evaporated. Pour over the heavy cream–the lesser amount if you want something less rich tasting–and bake until the cream takes on a caramel color and thickens to a sauce-like consistency, another 6 minutes or so. Spoon over any pan drippings, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Gracias!

Awards
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to all the marvelous people who nominated me for the Well Fed Network’s 2007 Food Blog Awards in the photography category. I’ve said it before and I shall say it again: I’m already a winner by just being nominated (have you see the other nominees? hot damn!) and again I offer my most sincere gratitude.  You’ve all made me so darn happy!

Menu For Hope

Menuforhope
Yes! It’s that time again! And this year I hope we all raise even more than last year’s Menu Of Hope. And what is Menu of Hope? It’s an annual fundraising event in support of the UN World Food Programme. Last year everyone raised over $60,000 to help the UN World Food Programme — pretty phenomenal!

For a complete overview of the entire program as well as links to the regional hosts, visit Pim over at Chez Pim. This year there are some mind-blowing offerings and I can’t wait to bid on a few myself. Make sure to check it out!

Grenadine Revisited

Messy_2

Why yes I’m fully aware that this photo looks like a crime scene and yes, I realize it’s a bit over the top and yes, I won’t be angry with you for not stopping me when I decided to make grenadine again.

Let me set the stage for you: extra poms on the kitchen counter, some vodka, a friend in town, pink hands, you get the picture.

And you’d think I would have learned my lesson already, sheesh.

But I must admit it was well worth the effort. Homemade grenadine is nothing like that bottled stuff, and every year I look forward to making a few batches and staining everything within 12 feet of me and my cutting board. It really makes all the difference in a cocktail and I suppose you could use it for other non-celebratory purposes.

Cheers!

Juiceandcocktails

Basic Grenadine Recipe
Because I like the
tartness of pomegranates I usually go easy on the sugar, or I omit the
sugar completely when making a reduction. This allows me to use my
syrup not only in cocktails but as a dressing or marinade for savory
recipes. It can also be made with honey.

2 cups pomegranate juice (I can’t advise you on a good method because I always make a mess no matter how hard I try)
1 cup sugar (or less if you prefer it not so sweet)

Bring juice to a simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced by
half. Reduce heat and add sugar, stirring constantly until it
dissolves, about 2 or 3 minutes. Allow liquid to cool completely and
then refrigerate. It should last about 1 week.

The Tattooed Latke Maker Gives In

Latkesweb

One day last August my ever-so-lovely partner Adam came home from a photo shoot for the launch of a new magazine. Upon asking how his long day was spent high atop the Hollywood Hills in a gorgeous airy modern home which was the location for the magazine spread, he proudly proclaimed, somewhat  exhausted, that he was now the new Latke King.

I really didn’t know what he meant by that, but my mind reeled and raced with images of small brightly lit fast food establishments that offered only fried potato pancakes with various dipping sauces. In my perverted mind they’d be open 24 hours, have drive-thrus, and come with plastic gloves to keep your steering wheel grease-free as you drove around town eating them.

Oh come on––you know it’d be fantastic, it really would. But sadly that’s not what he meant.

"I can now make a mean latke. I made 80 today alone. Eighty."

Blogjltearadam_2
As it turns out, Adam was food styling for a feature called "Chanukah L.A. Style" and the latke duties were delegated to him by the lead stylist. Eighty crispy, salty, delicious latkes for a photo shoot and I wasn’t around? Hollywood is a cruel town, I tell you.

Yesterday after reading about latkes over at Deb’s place and knowing Chanukah began today, I used every bit of persuasion I could muster to get my Latke Maker to indulge me by re-enacting his on-the-job skills.

"Oh come on, where’s your sense of spirit? It’s Chanukah!" I enthusiastically proclaimed.

"Matt, I hate to tell you this, but you’re neither Jewish nor have we once celebrated the Holiday" he snapped back.

"Well, um, your point? That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the holy Temple and the battle and menorahs and oil and light!" I responded.

"We can talk about it all you want to. But what you’re really asking me to do is get in the kitchen and make Latkes for you for dinner," he answered.

Suddenly a smile swept across my face and when I got home the scent of oil filled the kitchen and a stack of warm, savory latkes were waiting for me.

Never have they tasted so good.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Potato Latkes from Martha Stewart

I‘m using my pal Martha’s recipe since she was kind enough to share some linklove with me on her very own personal blog. I think that means I can use "my pal Martha" repeatedly––we be tight, as they say. Haha I’m so funny. Don’t sue me, Ms. Stewart.  Anyway, there are so many recipes out there but when it comes down to it I prefer a simple potato pancake and besides, I was afraid Adam was going to smack me with a frying pan if I asked for both traditional and something zany like Curried Sweet Potato Latkes from you-know-who. We enjoyed ours with plenty of sour cream and apple butter. Serves 4.

Ingredients
2 (about 1 1/4 pounds) all-purpose or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 medium white onion, finely grated
8 scallion greens, finely slivered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

Method
1. Over a large bowl of cold water, grate potatoes into long strips, using the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer grated potatoes from water into another bowl. Pour off water from first bowl, reserving sediment. Add sediment to potatoes.

2. Add eggs, onion, and scallion greens. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well by hand.

3. Fill a large heavy-bottomed frying pan with 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of oil until very hot, about 385 degrees.

4. Drop 1 heaping tablespoonful of potato mixture into the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes; the pan should hold five or six latkes per batch. Turn latkes over, and cook on the other side until golden brown, about another 3 minutes.

5. Latkes can be transferred to a baking sheet and kept warm in a 200 degree oven for up to a half hour before serving.

Tasty Gifts

New15
Oprah calls them "terrific oils and vinegars." They’ve made many magazine’s best of the best several years running. And they’ve won just about every kind of award you could imagine. All the accolades are well deserved when you taste your first drop of O Olive Oils and Artisan Vinegars – they’ve always topped my list of my favorite things and panic sets in when I see my bottles running low!

I’m super excited to announce I’ve teamed up with the great folks at O just in time for the holidays. This is my first entry into this type of relationship and one I’d never enter into lightly. However, I’m such a fan of O and their premium quality olive oils and vinegars that I jumped at the chance to do this. Taste O and you’ll know why.

Throughout the month of December you’ll get 15% off and free shipping on orders over $60 when you order online at O Olive Oil. Use the coupon code "Mattbites" to take advantage of this discount for the holidays. O makes it easy for you, too — they’ve got some great gift sets in some really nifty packages.

I think I know what my family is getting for the holidays!

Transparency: Nope, I’m not getting paid for any of this and I’m purely being driven by my tastebuds. Besides, I’m not much of spokesperson or salesman!

Update: Gosh darnit, I got some wires crossed and the deal has been updated to 15% Off! However, free shipping applies only to orders over $60. My apologies for the confusion–it’s my first time at cross promotion!