Capellini with Fresh Tomato Sauce

cappsetting

Everyone has their favorite recipes. Whether they come from dogeared books or handwritten on yellowed paper or even crinkled laser print-outs, these recipes become favorites in the kitchen and almost become a part of us. I have several that I rely on regularly but none as much as this recipe. It’s a key player in my arsenal of recipes that first appeared in the July edition of Gourmet Magazine from 2006. I remember making it three years ago and completely falling in love with it. A simple pasta dish of angel hair and the best, ripest tomatoes you can find (heirlooms work perfectly!) make for a really simple supper because there’s no cooking involved except for boiling the pasta. And in the dead of summer the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven or stand over a stove cooking for an hour. That’s why this is such a perfect recipe that I’ll usually make weekly from now until the end of August. It tastes like summer.

It’s pretty foolproof and it’s all about technique here. Two-thirds of the super-ripe tomatoes get diced while the rest get grated with a box grater using the large holes. Pulp, juice and chop make the sauce here and the addition of lemon juice and salt give it that zing. I’ve made it with and without the sugar, that’s mostly a matter of personal preference. The recipe also says it can be made 2 hours in advance but that’s about it. It’s meant to be enjoyed relatively quickly.

Capellini with Fresh Tomato Sauce Gourmet July 2006

cappdetailI’ve never met Ian Knauer from Gourmet but if I did I’d want to shake his hand or give him a hug for this recipe. It’s summer in a bowl. I’ve found that this is a great recipe for tomatoes that are a bit too ripe or for tomatoes of irregular size that cannot be sliced well for salads or caprese. And remember, angel hair is a must in this dish as anything thicker becomes too heavy since the sauce is raw.

1 small garlic clove
3 lb tomatoes (ripe, please!)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 lb dried capellini
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
extra virgin olive oil for dressing

Mince the garlic and mash it into a paste using a pinch of salt.

Core and roughly chop two thirds of the tomatoes. Halve the remaining tomatoes crosswise then rub the cut sides of the tomatoes against the large holes of a box grater. Remember to use the largest holes possible. Grate into a large bowl, reserving pulp and discarding the skin. Toss the pulp with the chopped tomatoes, garlic and salt paste, lemon juice, salt, sugar (optional) and black pepper. Let stand until ready to use, at least 10 minutes.

While the tomato sauce is standing, cook your pasta in boiling salted water, uncovered until al dente, 2 minutes or so. Drain in a colander and immediately add to tomato mixture, tossing well to combine, Sprinkle with basil and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt before serving.

Good Bite: Delicious Made Easy

good-bite-color1Well folks, I’m so thrilled I can finally tell you about a new project we’ve all been working on called Good Bite. It launched last night and judging from the comments from the Twittersphere it looks like it’s off to a great start!

Billed as “Top Food Bloggers, fresh ideas – making cooking fun and easy”, Good Bite is a comprehensive site featuring a few of my favorite blogging peers (and yours truly) as well as great recipes and ideas. Click around the site, spend some time and you might actually discover some great recipes as well as see some of us in action. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to be a part of this project that was created by DECA, and would you look at who’s on the site? Holy moly it’s a fantastic line up and I’m honored to be in their company! It’s like a superstar food blogging panel and I’m lucky enough to call many of them close friends. How I snuck in under the radar I’ll never know.

But all this means nothing if there ain’t great easy recipes behind it. And there are, trust me. In fact I’ll be making one of Deb’s recipes this weekend when I’m not obsessing about how fat my head is or why one of my eyes is wonky or how it sucks to get old and lose all your hair.

Check out the site, watch my friends in action (especially Jaden, damn that woman was made for television, don’t you think?) and enjoy Good Bite!

Below is my first segment with the gorgeous Catherine and Diane. Seriously people, I get to hang out with beautiful girls like this? Don’t be jealous!

P.S. Diane did an amazing wrap up of the project over at her site. Make sure to check it out.

Cherry Sidecar

cherry-sidecar

There are three types of people in this world: those that like cherries, those that like cherry-flavored, and those that like neither (or both, which makes this category 4 I suppose).  I’m wedged into the latter but have slowly learned to appreciate the seasonal gift of fresh cherries.

Please don’t get me wrong. There are no agendas, no personal allergic antedotes, nothing of the sort. Growing up fresh cherries weren’t a part of my family menu. To us, cherries were the gloopy, glossy globes that didn’t need a cherry pitter but a can opener. Something tells me that’s not quite the way Mother Nature intended them to be enjoyed but purely an act out of mankind’s thifty desire to preserve their short season.

It’s only been the past few years that I’ve learned to have my way with fresh cherries in the kitchen and that has resulted in a slight cherry crush. I don’t want to eat cherry pie or clafoutis unless you can convince me you made it yourself and please for the love of god keep any fauxcherryanything far away from me. That includes Luden’s.

Still, I can’t help but get a teensy bit excited when I see cherries.

Last week the man and I decided to go to a nice quiet dinner to celebrate. Adam had never been to Hatfield’s and I couldn’t think of a more perfect place for a nice, not-so-flashy dinner.  Considering we were coming from the Bazaar where we met up with friends from Miami for a cocktail and you can see why this is all hella juxtapositiony n stuff.

May I interject something here? Please go to Hatfield’s. Just go. Quinn and Karen Hatfield have created one of the sweetest experiences you could have and there’s a reason why this place is a favorite in Los Angeles. Trust me.

Back to cherries. Hatfield’s had a Cherry Sidecar on the menu and since all their other cocktails are fantastic I knew this would be as well. One became two, two became three, Adam told me to use my inside voice, the food was delicious, I said I didn’t want dessert but it came with my meal, I ate it and part of his, and that is this story! Fun, isn’t it? Ok, not really. But I did manage to ask how the drink was made and both our server and Karen were very forthcoming.

I tried recreating the drink at home with pretty good results. Of course it wasn’t Hatfield’s but pretty damn close. For my drink I infused about a pound of pitted and split cherries into brandy and put that in the fridge for 5 days. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I was sneaking little sips daily, shhhh!  When it finally have enough cherry-ness to it I made a simple cherry reduction: 1 pound of pitted cherries, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes and then cooled it. Once cooled I put it in a blender and strained the liquid and discarded the solids, returning my cherry syrup back to the fridge.

I followed the basic sidecar proportions and mixed 1 1/2 oz of brandy, 1/2 oz of cherry puree and 1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice. I can’t figure out what I love more about this cocktail: the fact that it mixes seasonal fruit with booze or the fact that it is one of the most beautiful colors when mixed.

And I didn’t even need a can opener!




One Year Ago Today

6a00d8345188ea69e200e5535b6d978833-500wi

One year ago today I married Mr. Adam C. Pearson in front of crowds and cameras, tears and smiles, hugs and kisses.

One year ago today I didn’t really know what would happen to those thousands of men and women who stood up for love and dedicated their lives to each other.

One year ago today I thought we’d make progress in California.

One year ago today I never realized the progress would happen to America.

Ladies and gents, I’m not the political type. But I am the loving type. And I love people. And I know that these past twelve months have been simply amazing but also filled with a few roadblocks on our way to true equality.

And you know what? It’s gonna be OK.

I know deep in my heart that equality will prevail for everyone, no matter where you are. And I want you to know that love is love and there’s nothing to fear.

Here’s to my husband, the man I’ve waited my whole life to meet. If you look up happy, chubby, loved and satisfied in the dictionary you’ll see my picture. Thank you for taking care of me.

And here’s a big happy anniversary to the 18,000 who married in California during our quick little window of legality. Here’s to the thousands of couples, gay and straight, all across America who are saying “I Do” and making this country a happier, healthier place.

We’ll get there!

Mariel’s Kitchen

matt-and-mariel51dfn3s07ml_ss500_Back in late summer last year I had the pleasure of working with Mariel Hemingway on her book, Mariel’s Kitchen, which just came out last month. I wasn’t the photographer on the book–– those duties were assigned to the talented Jeff Katz.  For this project I was the prop stylist, a job that is as fun and challenging as you think it’d be. When we weren’t battling killer wasps or on-set shenanigans (and not from Mariel, thankyouverymuch) it was one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on in some time.

So what exactly does a prop stylist do? Anything and everything. Prop stylists are in charge of well, props! Every plate, every fork, every napkin has usucrazy-jeffally been touched by the stylist who works very closely with the food stylists in creating the proper tone and story for the specific project. When budgets allow they are a food photographer’s best friend; when budgets are tight I certainly don’t mind stepping in and doing it myself for my own work. Luckily I’m able to bring many years of art direction and photography experience to the set when I’m propping which is an added bonus. Plus I love tableware and have amassed quite a collection so it was pure pleasure getting this gig with a group of people I absolutely adore. Even Jeff. When he wasn’t yelling at me and calling me his Oaxacan Warrior. Even though I’m not from Oaxaca. But whatever. He had a crush on me, I know it*.

matt-with-mariel-on-setAfter a few meetings to identify the “story” I went to work. Because we were shooting on location at Mariel’s house it was my duty to safely pack all the plates and dishes I pulled for the job and transport them. We wanted this book to be a personal story about Mariel’s philosophy about food which translated into a warm color palette with eclectic yet unfussy props. All the materials I brought were then supplemented by personal items from Mariel’s home which really makes this a personal endeavor.

props-layed-outColor is usually my starting point when creating a story. After a visit to her home and seeing how it was nestled in the canyons and surrounded by trees I knew I wanted to create a contrast to her surroundings. Immediately any drab greens and browns were crossed off my list and I gravitated towards cheery yellows, lemons, limes and blues. When it came to shapes and styles I went with a healthy mix of Mediterranean, Asian and Modern. Clean lines, simple shapes with a few accented pieces of glassware thrown in for good measure.

mariel-babySo what’s it like spending a week shooting in a celebrity’s house? In Mariel’s case it was pure joy. I was secretly hoping for some diva moments, some fits thrown in here and there, but nope, it was nothing like that. Mariel Hemingway is as real and gracious as they come. She exudes warmth and you kinda wanna give her a hug every twelve minutes. Plus she had the cutest dogs and as a dog person I was seriously distracted. I wanted to play!

recipe-glossarySetting up a shot is a group effort. We begin with a list of shots and what chapter they’ll appear in the book. Because Mariel’s Kitchen is broken down into seasons it was very important to know what time of the year we were striving for. I’d have a conversation with the photo team about which location on the property would make the most sense, they’d look at me like I was an idiot, we’d fight about shooting tethered vs. hand-held, I’d storm off like a prima donna and return with the appropriate table setting and we’d proceed. I’ll usually pull multiple props so that the food stylists can create a stand-in with a duplicate plate and the photographer can set up his framing while I work my magic on the set. Once that was done I’d run off to play with the dogs, fight with someone again and then pack up any previously used plates so that we wouldn’t create duplicate settings.

ernests-spoonsThe real magic happened when Mariel suggested we incorporate many of the things in her home into the images. You don’t have to ask me twice to riffle through your china cabinet, I’m down! Mariel was gracious enough to share family stories of Julia Child, her parents, the family heirlooms we were blessed enough to be holding, and a particular set of monogrammed spoons that belonged to her grandfather.

Yes, as in Ernest Hemingway. My heart practically went through my chest and then I started thinking about me + breakables. Friends? Not so much. Thank god this book production had insurance and I was so glad to carry my own insurance waver, too.

As a prop stylist it’s important to take notes and remember what you used and where you used it. You don’t want to repeat the same thing over and over again which is something I’ve seen happen. Grrrrr.

notes-go-everywhere

Working with Mariel and this team was one of the most satisfying experiences. It was great to step away from the camera for a week and focus on creating a story through color, shape and texture without concerning myself with f stops and losing my light. It was also a lot of work and I’m thankful to work with some of the best people in the bizz.

messy-set-table

Very special thanks to Mariel, Beth, Denise, Cindie, Korine, Andy, Stewart, and *Jeff (I love to give you a hard time).

A Series Of Liquids

A while back my gorgeous other half made a comment about my drinking habits. While my personal tastes for food are all over the map I realized I generally keep my sips within a very small comfort zone. I then realized they consist of very few things, but oh, how important they are to me! I decided to put the camera down for this post and pick up a paint brush and well, the results ain’t pretty. Go with it. Ladies and gentleman, I give you the most important liquid treasures in my life…

intro-panel-1

coffee-panel-21

nuoc-cham-panel-32

water-panel-4

soda-panel-5

wine-panel-6

And yea, I realize the percentages don’t add up. I’m many, many things but mathematician I am not.