It Only Looks Fancy

Tell me I’m not the only one who went into Marshall’s last month in search of Father’s Day gifts and walked out with a 2 lb. bag of sunflower seeds. No? Only me? Oh well. I had a purpose in mind for the sunflower seeds – a Thai-inspired sauce – but I’m so taken with this recipe for Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto that I haven’t managed to find time to work on that other recipe.

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The carrot recipe comes from Saladish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Tastier Way with Vegetables by Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb, and I can’t stop/won’t stop cooking from it. All the recipes can be made beforehand, put in the fridge, then taken out, and are all still fantastic. My own take on this cookbook is that it’s a lot like Ottolenghi’s vegetable platters but not as ridiculous in their finishing details.

 

20180708_164536.jpgI made these carrots again tonight with my CSA carrots. I’ve also enjoyed the Rice Noodles with Lots of Asian Herbs and Lime Dressing, Roasted and Pickled Cauliflower, and tossed the Basil Dressing with a farro salad with summer squash and fresh corn. There are a ton more things I’m looking forward to making before this book has to go back to the library. Honestly, it’s looking more and more likely that I will actually buy this book, it’s that good.

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Although this looks like a fancy dish, it takes less than a half hour to put together, and most of that time is carrots roasting. While the oven preheats, I cut off the greens tops and plop them in a huge bowl of cold water to give them a clean. I scrub the carrots in cold water with a vegetable brush instead of peeling them. Although her recipe calls for 2 bunches of carrots, I used one with no negative results.

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Ilene suggests using the carrot top pesto as “a spread for crostini with anchovies, pickled carrots and sliced radishes; as a dressing for a wedge salad of iceberg or romaine hearts with crumbled blue cheese, spiralized or grated carrots, or as a garnish swirled into warm or chilled carrot soup.” Or you can put them on top of the roasted carrots themselves, with the aforementioned sunflower seeds, which you can get at Marshall’s while picking up presents for your next birthday/Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, etc.

Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto from Saladish by Ilene Rosen

Ingredients

1 bunch baby carrots, scrubbed, tops attached

2 to 3 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carrot Top Pesto

About 2 cups loosely packed green carrot tops (stems discarded), from carrots above

¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted (I didn’t toast mine)

1 small garlic clove

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoon honey

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fruity olive oil for thinning the pesto

3 tablespoons queso fresco, crumbled

2 tablespoons canned or jarred pickled jalapenos, minced (I did not have any on hand)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F

Trim the carrots, leaving ½ inch of the green tops attached. Reserve about 2 cups of the remaining frilly tops for the pesto, plus several of the nicest-looking tops for garnish. Cut any fatter carrots lengthwise in half so they are all about the same thickness and place them on a sheet pan. Toss with enough oil to coat, spread them out in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Roast the carrots for 18 to 25 minutes (depending on the size), turning occasionally, until nicely browned and tender.

Meanwhile, make the pesto: Put the carrot tops, 3 tablespoons of the sunflower seeds, and the garlic in the bowl of food processor or in a blender and grind to a paste. Add the mustard, vinegar, and honey and blend throroughly. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until the pesto is thick but still retains some texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll have some pesto left over; store it tightly covered in the refrigerator, and use it within the next day or two, while the color is still bright.)

Arrange the carrots on a serving dish. Thin the pesto with olive oil until it can be drizzled. Spoon some pesto lightly over the carrots, and transfer the remaining pesto to a small serving bowl. Top the carrots with the cheese, followed by the jalapenos (if using), and finally the remaining 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds. Serve the remaining pesto on the side.

 

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Picnicking from Here

We celebrated our anniversary this year with a very hot night at Tanglewood, for the season finale of Live From Here with Chris Thile. To be honest, Garrison Keillor always made me feel a little uncomfortable, so I was happy when Chris became the host. He’s made it a much more music-centric show. Lake Street Dive, The Punch Brothers and Emanuel Ax were all guests our night. We were only scolded once by management because of the girls’ behavior. I actually am getting over a muscle strain so I couldn’t chase the girls around with Rich. He’s been exhausted since, although running and riding his bike in this heat probably doesn’t help.

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We had a wonderful picnic and ended up sitting with my Cousin Roz, who was there with a friend. We didn’t manage to find my cousin on the other side, Brian, who was also there that night. (Half my readership is my family who will delight in knowing the family was together in the Berkshires.)

But yes, the picnic! Oh my, it was a wonderful one. I had a lot to work with from our CSA, and lots of recipes I wanted to try out. In addition to this week’s recipe, I used the zucchini in a frittata, along with caramelized red onion and feta. Lilli made a caprese salad all by herself. There were also sundry items, including chips and guac, garlic and lemon green olives (found at the Co-op for half the price as Whole Foods), some stinky cheese, crackers, and yogurt and honey for the girls. Rich brought a Rye Saison by Bear and Bramble, brewed by one of our neighbors here in Florence.

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I had a hard time choosing what recipe to post because there have been so many good ones lately, and I have a few more lined up, but I am going with this fennel and white bean salad. Fennel is happening right now and the summer squashes will be around all summer.

We enjoyed this salad last summer as well, and I had meant to share it then, but there was kimchito tend to, and ice cream to eat. The idea of the salad comes from Julia Turshen and her wonderful cookbook, Small Victories, which earned a spot on the top shelf. I say “idea” because it’s a “Spin-Off” suggestion on from a recipe for a Chopped Chickpea Salad: “MIX WHITE BEANS WITH FENNEL, chopped fresh parsley, a little chopped fresh oregano, and shards of Parmesan. Dress with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.” That’s it.

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I forgot the fresh herbs in mine, and added red onion, which I soak in lemon juice as I get everything else prepared. Yes, the fennel would benefit being sliced paper thin on a mandolin, but I just used the same very sharp chef’s knife I used to cut my onion and lemon. My fennel were medium-sized ones. I see enormous ones in the regular grocery store, and I’ve had teensy ones from the farm share. These were the right size for Goldilocks. I clean mine by peeling off the icky, wrinkly first layer and giving the rest a wash.

I didn’t end up using my entire can of Northern White Beans for this recipe – about ⅓ of a cup of them are sitting in my fridge right now, waiting on their destiny.

This is a great salad to pack, be it on a picnic or for a work or school lunch.

Fennel and White Bean Salad

Ingredients

⅓ red onion, sliced thin

1 half fresh lemon

3 Fennel bulbs, cleaned and shaved on a mandolin or thinly cut with a sharp knife

⅔ can of Great Northern Beans, rinsed and dried

Hunk of Parmesan

Kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh parsley

Directions

Thinly slice the red onion and place it in a bowl. Juice some of the lemon half, but not all of it. This will take the bite out of the onion. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of the onion and lemon juice.

Thinly slice the fennel. Add that to the onions.

Rinse and drain the beans. Add to fennel and onions.

Stir everything in the bowl. Squeeze the rest of the lemon into the bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil, up to two tablespoons, into the mixture. Add another pinch of salt. Shave about a tablespoon of fresh Parmesan into the bowl. (Or skip it, and keep if vegan.) Add parsley, if using.

If you’re going on a picnic or packing this up, let the salad sit in its own juices for at least 10 minutes for everything to settle. Then pack up.

 

Every Day Pie

My Cousin Larry is moving to the South of France in just about a month. He’s looking forward to leaving Trump and all his madness behind. He makes a point to say that Trump is not the cause, but a symptom of much larger problem. I don’t disagree.

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Cousin Larry is probably the best family member to do “family.’’ He can be counted on to attend all family simchas, like weddings, baby namings, and bat mitzvahs. And he was key to the Weinberg Family Reunion in London back when I was pregnant with Beatrix. In August, when Lilli and I cat sat in New York City for a week, we met up one afternoon and saw the Calder exhibit at the Whitney. Afterwards, we took Lilli to a candy shop, and then journeyed to Dominque Ansel Bakery during which Cousin Larry and I discovered that our behavior around baked goods — and as it turns out, cruise ship buffets — was shockingly similar. It was as if we were related or something!

Larry’s also the family genealogist. So a few weeks back, when he was visiting Aunt Sydney to review old photos and the family tree he’s painstakingly put together, he made a point afterwards to come to our house for a meal and a nice long afternoon visit.

Because his wife Ashley is allergic to nightshades, I made a point to serve all sorts of things he usually has to avoid, like cauliflower stew and marinated roasted peppers with fresh mozzarella. We also had a farro salad with Castelvetrano olives, walnuts and golden raisins, and roasted broccoli.

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And then we had this lemon pie for dessert. As I’d mentioned back in the fall, I’ve been on a pie kick, and this has become my go-to “I’ve got nothing in the house, but I can make fantastic a pie in no time flat” recipe.  I’ve taken to keeping sweetened condensed milk and graham crackers on hand for this recipe. Lemons are something you should always have on hand. Limes will work too.

The crust is the same as for this peanut butter chocolate pie, and is originally from Food and Wine’s Desserts cookbook. I use it all the time now. I even purchased Kosher-for-Passover Graham crackers and brown sugar for the holiday. Now I can whip up pies on a moment’s notice for unscheduled visitors. Or just because.

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Because every recipe I’ve read for this sort of pie has you add room temperature eggs to the mix, do yourself a favor and take two eggs out of the fridge and place them in warm water as you make the crust. It will make things move along that much faster.

At some point we will make it to France to see Cousin Larry in his chateau. He’s already scoped out the best place to buy pastry for when we come.

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Lemon Pie

For the crust

One plastic package Graham crackers, broken

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup brown sugar

For the filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Juice of 2 lemons, plus their zest

2 eggs, room temperature

For the topping

1 cup heavy cream (Or use 2 cups if you want a very dramatic pie.)

2 Tablespoons sugar

Directions

Before you begin making your crust, place 2 eggs in warm water to bring to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a food processor, pulse the Graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and light brown sugar until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Let cool.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the lemon zest, condensed milk and eggs until smooth.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake for about 20 minutes, until set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center. Let pie cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until you serve it, at least two hours.

Make the whipped cream: Using a mixer, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form, 2 minutes. Beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form, 1 minute. Mound the whipped cream on the pie.

Serve.

 

Kissed with Garlic

I’m not sure if more people go to the Middle East in Cambridge’s Central Square for the food or the live music, but for me, the draw to the night club and restaurant was always the whipped garlic. They serve it in a miniscule bowl, smaller than a saucer, with triangles of pita, served in a small wicker basket, on the side for dipping.

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I think the owners are Egyptian – they also make a terrific fool – but it took me years to learn that the zippy sauce I craved was actually Lebanese. It’s called toum and if you go into, literally, any Lebanese falafel and shwarma shop it will be an option next to the tahini sauce as they build your dish. Toum was once described to me as a “very strong kiss of garlic,” by another Lebanese restauranteur.

And even though I have spent hours of my life thinking about this sauce, it wasn’t until this winter as I stockpiled garlic from my Winter CSA that it ever occurred to me that I could skip the lines and make my very own jar of toum. I should add the reason I had so much garlic on hand is because I was sent an Israeli product, Dorot, which packages frozen cubes of garlic, ginger and a few other herbs, and has simplified my life so much. Making a soup and want some garlic? Putting together a curry and you want a ton of ginger and garlic? Toss in some frozen Dorot cubes. They are a life changer. But that means my garlic pile on the counter kept on growing and I barely touched it.

 

 

20180129_081217.jpgIt wasn’t until I got the February Bon Appetit that I finally made my way to the kitchen. I ended up using an amalgam of recipes, rather than the one in the magazine. The best advice I’ve read about making this sauce is to put your bottle of oil in the fridge while you prep the garlic, which takes time because you really want to remove any green stems as that will cause your dip to be bitter. Trust me, I’ve had bitter toum and it really was awful; definitely take the time to clean your garlic thoroughly. The recipes also warn that this is an emulsion, so go s-l-o-w-l-y when adding the chilled oil. It’s best done in a food processor.

This made a canning jam jar of the sauce, and I put it on everything while it lasted in the fridge. It’s great on roasted potatoes — and roasted sweet potatoes. I spread it on Friday night challah, dolloped it in red lentil and potato stew, and even used it as a dressing on salad greens.

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Although the recipe calls for 4 cups of oil, I think mine hit the right consistency, like a thin mayonnaise, before I poured in 2 cups. They say it lasts up to 4 weeks in the fridge, but trust me when I say you’ll use it up long before then. 

Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

Put your bottle of oil into the fridge as you gather the rest of your ingredients and prep the garlic

Ingredients

Up to 4 cups grapeseed, avocado or extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of peeled garlic cloves

Juice of 1 lemon, divided

½ cup of ice water, divided

Kosher salt

Directions

Before you begin, place your oil in the freezer or refrigerator so that it is chilled, but still liquid. While the oil chills, remove the ends from your garlic cloves, split them in half and remove any green layers from inside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine garlic cloves, a hefty pinch of salt, juice of half a lemon, and 1/4 cup of the ice cold water.

Process until smooth, then stop and scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula.

Turn the food processor back on and drizzle the chilled oil through the top as SLOWLY as possible, one cup at a time.

Scrape down the sides of the food processor as necessary. Be sure that your processor does not get too hot, as this can cause your sauce to separate.

Juice the second half of the lemon, and add the rest of the ice water.

 

Add oil until you’ve reached the texture you desire. The final result should resemble a thin mayonnaise. Store toum in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four weeks, although it will be long gone before then.  

 

Apply to everything.

Spilt Milk

And so we learned during our December break that one really can cry over spilled milk, because that’s exactly what Lilli did as soon after she spilled milk all over my laptop. I’ve been computerless since the day after Christmas, which has meant no blogging, for Cheap Beets or Hebrew school.

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Still, we’ve needed to eat, and my kitchen didn’t shut down during this long pause. Nope. We’ve roasted watermelon radishes and drizzled herbed green tahini sauce on top. Roasted sweet potatoes have been dipped in a Greek yogurt dip, spiked with garlic and lemon. I’ve gotten into lentils, and engineered a potluck salad of lentils, roasted beets, red onion, dried cherries, feta and a sweet balsamic dressing. And, oh, my, we made a marvelous and moist carrot cake that had nearly a pound of of dried cranberries, golden raisins, coconut and pecans.

I am pretty sure that all these dishes, and many more, have been documented on my Instagram feed. But one of my baking feats, a chocolate beet cake with chocolate orange glaze, seemed to garner the most likes, oohs, and aahs. It was from a library book, Home Grown: Cooking from My New England Roots by Matt Jennings, which I borrowed based solely on the title of the book. I hadn’t recognized the author’s name at first, but as soon as I opened it up I realized this was that Rhode Island chef that made his way to Boston. Although I’ve never eaten at any of Matt Jennings’ restaurants, the amount of praise food writers have bestowed upon him in the past few years made me quite excited to read the book, based on title alone. Rich tells me he was on Radio Boston last week.

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And it was in this recipe about beets that had me nodding enthusiastically in agreement:

Beets are one of those ingredients that are perpetually in season in New England. We see them toward the end of summer, all through the fall, and into winter, with a spring variety poking through the cool earth in early April as well.

I mean, not only have I named my food blog after the rosey root, but we basically eat what the farmer digs up every week, and beets make a perpetual appearance in our CSA.

The recipe is a simple one; I don’t think the girls budged from their Bubble Guppies episode while I whipped it up in the kitchen. Because I am me, I already had roasted beets awaiting in the fridge. I actually skipped over his directions on how to roast beets because his oven is much too cold (325F). I’ve found you need at least a 400F oven to soften them.

With fresh orange zest in the glaze I’ve found this to be a perfect example of a winter cake. I hope you like it. We certainly have.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Chocolate-Orange Glaze

Chocolate and beets are a natural pair. The earthiness of the beets contrasts with the richness and sweetness of chocolate. The milk chocolate frosting on this cake is laced with orange zest – orange tastes great with both chocolate and beets…

Makes one 10 ½-inch bundt cake; serves 12.

For the cake:

Unsalted butter, for greasing

1 pound red or golden beets, roasted

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

½ cup canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

6 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, chopped

½ cup heavy cream

Zest of 1 navel orange

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of kosher salt

Flaky salt, such as Maldon, for garnish

Make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease with butter and flour a 10 ½-inch Bundt or 10-inch angel food cake pan.

Peel your roasted beets and put them in a food processor; process until smooth. Measure the beet puree and set aside 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces); reserve any remaining beety puree for another use (it can be combined with ricotta or goat cheese and used as a sandwich spread).

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, canola oil, vanilla and beet puree. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.

Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack.

Make the glaze:

Put the chocolate in a bowl. In a small saucepan, gently heat the cream to a bare simmer. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and add the orange zest. Let stand for 10 minutes, then gently whisk until smooth. Whisk in the olive oil and kosher salt.

Set the cake (still on the wire rack) over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the glaze over the cake and use an offset spatula or spoon to spread the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, letting the excess drip off. Garnish with a sprinkle of flaky salt.

Easy As Pie

We live in walking distance of the Florence Pie Bar, which is so quaint and hip and perfect that NPR featured it in their story last month about how hip and full of Hygge pie has become. As adorable as the shop is, with its orange door and seating area the size of a postage stamp, the $5-a-slice price tag keeps our visits infrequent. Lots of people do go; some people hang out there. Just not us.

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Still, I follow them on Instagram and last February, when they posted a peanut butter pie topped with a crown of fudgy chocolate, I picked up Lilli (who is perfectly capable of walking) snapped her into her car seat, and zoomed over. You know how I am about the holy marriage of chocolate and peanut butter. The slice was amazing, but that’s the one and only time I’ve been.

But with their slices in my feed, I get a challesh, a hankering, for pie pretty regularly. So when I was flipping through What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up, by Today Show regular Elizabeth Heiskell, I was stopped in my tracks by the Peanut Butter-and-Banana Pudding recipe. Inspiration struck: What if I took just the peanut butter mousse part of the recipe, made myself a pie crust with all the leftover Graham crackers I had in the house from Sukkot art projects, and topped it with ganache? I mean, that’s what cooking and baking is all about, right? Inventing, and reinventing and borrowing, and building off a great idea.

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So that’s exactly what I did. After consulting with Sylvie and my mother who both agreed there needed to be a layer of ganache in between the crust and mousse, to prevent the pie from getting soggy. And it was glorious! Just glorious! Sylvie has been given explicit instructions to serve this at my shiva if I go first (hopefully a very long time from now.) It’s a very rich pie, so a thin slice is all I need to get my fix.

This is a dead simple recipe which takes minutes to put together. You honestly don’t need fancy chocolate for the ganache; I just used the chocolate chips I keep in my freezer. The ratio of heavy cream to chips was 1:1 so it made for a very thick layer – key for me because I do love that combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I have no allegiance to peanut butter brands, but for this recipe don’t use the natural stuff.

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We still have tons of Graham crackers leftover, and I’m still creating new pies. I made this lemon pie that I’ll share with you soon. That was even easier to make, if you don’t think you’ll get sick of eating pie. I don’t think I will!

Buckeye Pie

First, make your Graham cracker crust:

Ingredients

1 sleeve Graham crackers, broken

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup light brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a food processor, pulse the graham cracker into crumbs. Add the melted butter and light brown sugar until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Let cool.

Make the Peanut Butter Mousse

Ingredients

3 cups creamy peanut butter

8 ounces (1 cup) butter, softened

1 cup (about 4 ounces) powdered sugar

Directions

Beat the peanut butter and butter with an electric mixer on medium high heat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, and slowly add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Make the Ganache

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chopped chocolate (chocolate chips are fine by me)

Directions

Bring heavy cream to simmer on stove top, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat

Add chocolate chips to the cream. Let them sit, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.

Stir. It will turn velvety. Let cool slightly.

Assemble the Pie

Once your pie crust has cooled down, pour on a thin layer of ganache. Let cool. You should still have ¾ of the ganache left.

Once the ganache has cooled, spread all the peanut butter mousse on top of the chocolate layer, and spread evenly with a spatula.

Pour the remaining ganache on top of the peanut butter mousse.

Place in fridge to firm, about 2 hours.

 

 

 

 

City of Angels

 

IMG956076.jpgWhen the girls are older, and we’re done paying for school and daycare, we will travel the world and have culinary adventures. It’s going to be a few years before anything like this happens, but I’ve been working on my list since long before they were born.

It might surprise you to learn that it’s not Europe at the top, but North America. And the top line belongs to Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s in the southwest of the country, and because of its mountains and differing climates, the food there is varied and amazing. Chocolate is grown there, and its best known for its seven moles. I would probably skip the edible insects, though.

I know, there isn’t a ton of Mexican food on my blog, but my dream is to make Chiles en Nogada, minus the pork, in a Mexican village. This summer, I started making my own chilaquiles with the tomatillos Lilli and I would pick at the farm. They were perfect and surprisingly simple to make and I’m sorry I didn’t find the time to blog about them. Next summer, I promise.

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The second destination on my list is Los Angeles. Silver Lake, yes, but also the places that Jonathan Gold writes near-poetry about. I’ve always been about places tucked away. I had a gastronomy professor who used to say to look to a city’s suburbs, where rent is more affordable, especially for newer immigrants trying to run a restaurant.

So when I was contacted and offered the book L. A. Mexicano: Recipes, People & Places by James Beard winner Bill Esparza, I jumped at the opportunity. A book, about Mexican food culture in Los Angeles? Yes, please!

And it’s a wonderful book! Yes, there are recipes, 65 of them. But the book also profiles L.A. Mexicano community activists and politicians. It’s also a guide to L.A.’s best markets, vendors, taquerias, bakeries, and more. It’s essential reading for someone planning a trip to Los Angeles to eat. It’s also a primer on Mexico’s culinary regions, and there’s also a dictionary of Mexican culinary terms. The writing is wonderful and the photos are crisp and vibrant.

Sure, there’s a ton of stuff, like wild boar chilaquiles, that I’m skipping, but I settled on a papaya cream soup to test first. It’s actually not a Oaxacan specialty, but is based on the food served by Mexico City’s grand masters of Mexican haute cuisine, made by modernist chefs using Mexican techniques and ingredients.

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To be honest, I’m not the biggest papaya fan, so I made it with the idea of giving it to my mom, who loves it. It was a lovely soup, light and sweet. And I’d never made a sofrito (onion, celery and green pepper) before. With its additional herbs and spice, it’s a little different than the Holy Trinity of Southern cooking I had to make for the summer vegan jambalaya.

I am not a drinker, so I can’t give you definitive directions on what white wine to use for the sofrito. I think the one I bought was from Portugal and cost $8. I bought my papaya from Trader Joe’s for $3.50. There’s a Mexican store in Hadley I’ve been dying to check out but haven’t had a chance to. Someday soon, I hope.

I’d meant to have this post up before Day of the Dead, so you could have a nice Mexican recipe to celebrate, but a migraine has been hounding me all week. Next year, hopefully.

Papaya Cream Soup from L.A. Mexicano by Bill Esparza

Ingredients

1 papaya, about 3 to 4 pounds, peeled and cut into chunks

½ carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

½ cup Sofrito (recipe follows)

½ cup sugar

5 cups stock (I used Better than Bouillon)

1 cup half and half

Sea salt and white pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450F. Wrap papaya and carrot in aluminum foil with a tight seal and roast in the oven until both ingredients are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine papaya, carrot, Sofrito, sugar and stock. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour soup into a blender, blend for a minute, and then pour through a strainer back into the saucepan. Whisk in half and half and return the soup to a gentle boil for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sofrito This flavor base is useful for many soups, stews and sauces. Consider doubling the recipe to keep more on hand.

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

½ onion, diced

½ stick celery, diced

½ green pepper, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

Pinch of thyme

Pinch of oregano

1 bay leaf

½ cup white wine

Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add oil, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano and bay leaf. Cook, stirring until onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine, increase the heat to simmer briskly, and cook until the sauce reduces, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf. This will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for a week or more.