Let’s Get Ethical

A quick post to bring a new site to your attention. It’s called The Food Blog Code Of Ethics and all I can say is Hallelujah! As a professional in the food industry for almost 20 years I always strive to maintain a certain level of professionalism with my blog (even when I’m talking about David’s Thong or Drugs & Alcohol) so I’m thrilled to see this site.

I think we all make the world a nicer place when we hold ourselves responsible and treat others with respect.

Check it out!

Carne Asada Fries. Bong Not Included.

asada-fries-mattbites

I love living in California. We pay too much to live here, teeter on the brink of earthquakes and state budget emergencies, and wholeheartedly embrace political correctness as a lifestyle. Not that you could tell what we embrace, on account on those botoxed foreheads and stuff. And this is just Southern California; don’t even get me started on my Northern California Relatives. In fact, while in Santa Monica last week I encounted no fewer than three-hundred-and-forty-seven placards letting me know that I could park only on the street between the hours of 8 to 1, that I couldn’t park there because my car used gasoline, no, wait, that the spot was actually reserved for visually-impaired drivers, or that the parking meter I did actually find didn’t take money but some kind of space-aged FOB made out of recycled water bottles and–my favorite– to be quiet or not to honk or block the intersection or use peanut oil out of respect for those with allergies.

It’s really enough to make someone want to move to the IE, I tell you.

But on those moments when California does get it right, well, it’s a beautiful thing.  You could be as wacky or flamboyant as you want and no one notices. You can drink bottles and bottles and bottles of wine from your backyard. You can lose your winter coat. You can worship at the alter of vanity and spandex and feel rewarded and no one will look at you funny when you hold a soy latte and say  “I’m currently workshopping my treatment.”  And you can even make nachos out of fries.

Let me repeat that: YOU CAN EVEN MAKE NACHOS OUT OF FRIES.

I’m sure to get many comments and emails about this when I claim this is a Southern California Original. But while my research is limited, my appetite is huge. And do I care whether these things were born in San Diego or San Isidro? Not really. I’m sticking to the version of this story I’ve made up in my head that involves a taco shack, a surfer, an ounce of Blue Mystic and some rolling papers. Because really, how else would these things come to be? It’s the collision of Mexican Cuisine and an American Favorite, a big salty pileup that takes no prisoners and requires you, the eater, to really really really really want it like you’ve never wanted anything before. Because this dish isn’t for wimps, purists or those afraid of getting dirty. It is what it is and it’s freaking marvelous.

And do you really need a recipe for this? Aw, well, ok, I’ll indulge you. Grab that slab of Carne Asada and chop it ever so aggressively into small chunks of meat. Top the french fries of your choice (double-fried method for me, thankyouverymuch) with the carne and then go absolutely insane with cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeños, queso fresco, whatever…you see where I’m going with this. There’s no rhyme nor reason. And why would you expect there to be? And while we’re still on the topic, you do have my permission to go crazy when no one’s looking and dig in and thank the great State of California for her culinary greasiness, er, I mean greatness.  Lord knows I did twice this past week.

And I don’t even smoke pot.




Bad Apple

pink-mealicious-revised

“Waxy, not the kind that’s obvious, but the kind you find out after you’ve already taken a bite, and remains on your tongue, unyielding. A roundness that gives way to unexpected mealiness under your teeth. You spit it out, then throw it in the garbage where it makes a satisfying thud as it hits the bottom. It still had a sticker on it when you took a bite, what made you think it would be different from any of a thousand tasteless red apples you’ve subjected yourself to over the course of a lifetime? Who thinks of these things? Why hasn’t there been a Great Red Apple Uprising? There are many delicious apples out there, and none of them come from Jewel. You knew this but somehow the hum of the fluorescent lighting, the mist of the automatic spray machines, and the piped in recording of “singin’ in the rain” suckered you in, once again.”

From my friend Jessica Palmer who has recently started blogging at Buttered Noodles. I became an obsessive fan of her writing 15 years ago when we both lived in Chicago — she had a column in our local paper Babble. I can’t tell you how happy I am that she’s writing again and begged her to let me include this short entry here. I just love her and miss her writing terribly.

New Flavors for Appetizers

flavors1Would you like to know what I have in common with Cher? Other than the fact that I own a box of wigs, well not much really. But I do love her movies, which brings me to her 1990 film Mermaids. In the movie she played this wacky mom who only cooked appetizers for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I remember seeing it and thinking “Ok, now if I ever became an Armenian American celebrity with her own variety show and doll who wins Grammys and Golden Globes and Oscars with hit singles in the Top 10 for the past 40 years who sometimes plays a Lesbian from Texas, then damnit, I’d want to be Cher.”  But really, that’s about as far as my Cherinterest goes.

No, really.

After Mermaids I kept thinking how fabulous a world of appetizers would really be. Perhaps I’m fickle, perhaps I become bored too easily, but a world of smaller bites and various nibbles would truly keep me happy. It’d be like tapas twentyfourseven and I challenge you to find a problem with that. See? Ya can’t. Because there really is nothing wrong with small servings of flavorful foods meant to be shared with people. And if you need further convincing I’ll give you my home address and you can see my cookbook collection.

If there’s a book on entertaining or appetizers chances are I have it. In the back of my mind I envision Cher’s world of appetizers not only for the cocktail hour but for every moment in between––my collection certainly reflects that. So last year when my friend Amy told me she was starting work on a book for Williams-Sonoma (and after my nosey self found out the topic) I knew it’d be right up my alley. Her book titled “New Flavors For Appetizers: Classic Recipes Redefined” is an innovative twist on appetizers and focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients as the key to each recipe. The book is divided into seasons which I completely love and introduces global twists throughout the recipe collection. Amy’s done an amazing job keeping the recipes quick and flavorful, unlike my appetizer books of the 1950s and 60s that require a small army to complete a party buffet. I’m loving her recipe for Lettuce Tacos with Grilled Sesame Beef, as the intersection of Latin and Asian cuisine plays a big part in my kitchen these days. And the recipe for Chickpea Dip with Toasted Cumin and Pomegranate is a nice twist on hummus. I haven’t made it to the seafood recipes yet other than the tuna but I do plan on cooking from the Summer chapter this year. The Avocado, Toasted Corn and Chipotle Salsa recipe is calling my name. Or maybe Cher’s name.  Or both.

tuna-crudo

Tuna Crudo with Fennel and Radishes from New Flavors For Appetizers: Classic Recipes Redefined, Williams-Sonoma.

Matt says: I love tuna in any form — grilled, smoked, seared, raw in poke or carpaccio ––so this was the first recipe I made from the book. The fennel and radishes deliver that contrasting crunch. It’s heaven.

1 lb sushi-grade ahi tuna, well chilled
1 large or 2 small bulbs of fennel
1 bunch (about eight) radishes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup peppery extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Leave the tuna in the refrigerator until you are ready to cut it. If it is well chilled, it will be easier to work with.

If the fennel stalks are still attached, trim them and reserve for another use or discard. Reserve a few of the feather fronds for garnish, if desired. Remove and discard the outer layer of the fennel bulb if it is tough, or cut away any discolored areas. Halve the bulb lengthwise and trim the base of the core. Trim off the leafy tops and the root ends from the radishes. Using a mandoline or large sharp knife, cut the fennel bulb halves and then the radishes into paper-thin slices.

Using a long, sharp knife, and cutting with the grain, cut the tuna into 1/2-inch dice, removing any sinew.

Divide the fennel and radishes evenly among chilled bowls or plates. If desired, roughly chop some of the fennel fronds and add a few to each bowl. Arrange the tuna on top of the vegetables, again dividing evenly. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and oil until blended. Drizzle the lemon-oil mixture evenly over the tuna and vegetables and season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve right away. Makes 8 servings.

(oops! Thanks to my dearest friend Dr. Dakessian who thought it’d be best if I clarified the fact that the recipe photo is from me and not the book. Thanks, Raf!)