Belated Father’s Day

It’s not too late!

If you didn’t have time to get something or never found just the right gift for your Dad for Father’s Day, I have the perfect thing!

How about a cookbook with over 135 recipes broken down into the 5 seasons (the usual 4 plus Chocolate, of course)? Or, how about a cookbook with a whole section dedicated to how to shop at farmers markets and how to pick and store produce? What about a cookbook that has breakfast, appetizers, sides, mains, and desserts?

Interested? I have just the cookbook for you! It actually makes a great gift for any occasion. Oh my Latte, it’s a goodie, I promise. And I know just where you can get it…

Right here!

Summer Delights

For those of you planning your weekend: where you will procure your double shot Latte, the details about your trip to the farmers market and what you’ll be cooking, don’t forget to check out my Warm Nectarine Blackberry Cobbler recipe from Great Food Starts Fresh is in this month’s issue of Natural Health Magazine!

You can also find my Slow Cooked Baby Back Rib recipe (with homemade barbecue sauce) on page 35 in this month’s issue of Today’s Diet and Nutrition.

And… keep your eyes out for a little something about yours truly in the next issue of Jamie Magazine.

Actually, as my Super-sous keeps saying, “the whole summer season from the cookbook is downright delicious.” So, pick your dish and let me know how it goes!

Back in Action

After a week of ocean bliss in Hawaii and a handful of days to get settled back in L.A., Super-sous and I have hit the ground running and are back in action.

It’s been a great couple of weeks. We’ve been hitting up at least 3 farmers markets a week, cooking up many new recipes (finally getting back in the kitchen), and getting down to business.

Yesterday, I was in the studio recording an episode (on healthy restaurants) for The Splendid Table! (TBD as to when it will air.) The recording studio was in the American Public Media Marketplace Offices in downtown L.A. and I got to meet and give a cookbook to my Marketplace hero, Kai Ryssdal!

After that, we zoomed over to another studio to do voice over work for my new show, Good Food America, which starts airing on July 7 (with a little sneak peak on July 4).

Up next: the slow sipping of my double shot Latte, a trip to the gym, a visit to a nearby farmers market to get kale and fresh blackberries, and an evening of recipe development in the kitchen.

Dinner plans, anyone?

TWO DAYS!!!

Today, I’m in Berkeley, California. We’re shooting all day (two different locations) and then we zoom back to the hotel for a quick round of shut eye before my super-sous and I head off to the airport early Sunday morning to fly to NYC.

Then, Monday at 8:45AM EST… it’s…

Latte, prepare yourself. I’ll be cooking up 2 recipes from the Spring season of my cookbook and I’ll be talking all about my new show, Good Food America.

Get ready for fun behind the scene photos!

Until then, here a few pics from the last few days on the road.

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Cookies for Breakfast?

Last night, as I was shopping for ingredients (at my local grocery store) for the recipes I have been testing in preparation for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Cooking for Solutions Event that I am participating in, I spotted, in the frozen section, a “Toaster Breakfast Cookie.” A what? Yes, a “breakfast cookie,” and made with whole grains, to boot. Fascinated, I looked at the nutritional information on the back of the box. 1 cookie has about 6 grams of fat, 300 calories, 230 mg of sodium, 19 grams of sugar… and so on.

It reminded me of ANOTHER amazing food product I saw in the aisles a couple of weeks ago.

Seriously? An “excellent source of calcium, iron, vitamins A, B….” I almost grabbed the whole lot off of the shelves. I NEED this – for my health! It’s a cookie. How could I resist? Well, cop a squat and let’s read the ingredient list, shall we? The first ingredient is sugar, followed by a number of other “nutritious” ingredients such as vegetable oils (likely GMO canola oil), polydextrose (processed sugar that mainly comes from corn these days and is likely GMO), corn syrup (um, GMO?), dextrose (mainly comes from corn these days and is likely… say it with me, GMO?), natural and artificial flavors (which ones, please), etc.

With processed foods being marketed as nutritious with fancy packaging and colors, it can be so difficult shopping at grocery stores (and I can’t even imagine how much more difficult when you have kids).

As my Director of Photography, Carl,  on my PBS show (Growing a Greener World) once said while we were shooting an episode in a small town (comprised of many overweight people) where there were only fast food restaurant options for dinner, “these people have no chance.”

No chance? What’s wrong with this picture, Latte?

It is becoming increasingly hard to navigate the way through the maze of food marketing and gimmicks: the lack of proper food labeling, the money and politics behind food lobbyists, the fact that so much of the government farming subsidies go for GMO mono crop corn (which we can’t actually eat without processing it first), the news that some fast food restaurants now accept food stamps… and on it goes.

My wish is for people to know that it is fresh food that is synonymous with nutritious and delicious. Maybe even subsidize food that doesn’t need processing before we can eat it. Real food. Now, that’d be something.

This is why I dedicate a whole section in my cookbook to discuss how to shop safely(!) at the grocery store (perimeter shopping) and why I love shopping at farmers markets. At least, when shopping at your local farmers market, you can ask the grower where the food comes from, how it’s grown, and even visit their farm.

Education is a start, however I know it’s complicated. The problems weave through the socioeconomic lines to the political streets to the media train to our education system. And when we are told that a cookie has as much vitamin E as two cups of carrot juice, what chance do we really have?

What was I thinking?!

When I embarked on the journey (5 years ago) to write my seasonal cookbook, Great Food Starts Fresh, I always planned to self-publish so I could take my time with each recipe – ensuring deliciousness, make sure each photo was perfect, and (therefore) design the cookbook of my dreams.

I never really thought about what this would mean on the distribution end, though. I mean, 10,000 books isn’t really THAT many books, is it? Actually, it is. Translation: 4 storage units underground (climate controlled) about 45 minutes outside of L.A. (cheaper), many boxes of tape, sharpies, and return labels, and countless trips to post offices all around the country (I love making new friends!). Today, I had to replenish my stock which means my super-sous and I drove (in separate cars) to the storage unit to “grab” some books (read: 396 books or 1,188 pounds) load them into our cars (read: sweat) and subsequently unload them into my apartment (read: very time consuming).  I look forward to the day where I can reclaim my apartment (or as we have been calling it – the office supply/book warehouse) and walk freely without a fun book maze taking me everywhere (have you ever seen the movie Labyrinth?).

Oh, Nathan of years ago, if I could only have a wise word with you now…

Thank goodness for my super-sous who always makes things more fun and, of course, trusted Latte who is never more than a sip away.

A Bittersweet Bite

I must say, this kale salad (from my cookbook) has been my go-to salad this entire winter. It’s hearty, tasty, oh-so filling, but not overly so (I mean, I still have an amazing piece of slow-cooked olive oil poached salmon in the oven!). It has a subtle bitterness (from the kale), it’s pleasantly sweet (from the oranges and dried cranberries) with a great crunch (read: nuts, kale, apple) and is finished with a splash from the dynamic duo: red-wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil (kale’s best buds). Fresh, delicious, and fast.

Yet, now that the LA rains have arrived, and winter is coming to a close, I must say, I will miss the winter produce and all the magical one-pot wonderness that can be enjoyed with cool weather. Recipes that last for days, often times getting better – more flavorful with time (if they’re not devoured by your guests, of course). Rustic soups, stews, and slow-roasted root vegetables.

As the weeks pass and the first fava beans, artichokes and asparagus arrive at the farmers markets, those winter veggies I embraced so lovingly will slowly fade from my Rolodex of recipes – making way for quicker, simpler cooking techniques.

But for now, my tasty bowl of kale salad, it’s just you and me, a blanket, a book and some tea.

Thank goodness Latte is always in season.

Creatures of Habit

We are all creatures of habit – some good, some bad. It is my hope that over the years we will all replace one bad habit for a good one. What’s my favorite habit? Well, read on my friends.

For the last (give or take) 15 years, I have been in the habit of going to the farmers market every Sunday, the Hollywood Farmers Market, that is. In fact, I think of the farmers market as my second home because I used to work at the one in Hollywood for over 10 years selling fruit for one of the farmers… my buddy Ken Lee.

Not only is it filled with every possible fruit and vegetable that you could possibly want, but so many people, from so many different walks of life come to shop every week – from the city’s greatest chefs, to tourists, to famous actors, to everyday shoppers. I love it!

This Sunday, my sous-chef and I were making our plans for what to buy, when we remembered that the L.A. Marathon was taking place. (Gasp!) Translation: roads closed everywhere.  A-ha! (pointing skyward) What a great opportunity to walk. I love L.A. without any cars. Ahhhhh.

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And with this fancy little rolly cart, care of my friends at Lucini Italia Olive Oil, we were able to cruise to the market in style!

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What have we here? Oranges, Fresh Herbs, Snap Peas, Flowers, Tomatoes, Lettuces, Cabbage, Greens….. Everything is so fresh and delicious. Starting with amazing produce makes my job as chef so easy! I love supporting my local farmer friends. Also, (come closer) …near the end of the day you can find a few really great deals!

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ImageImageImageImageImageOh, and how cool is this – remember the little jaunt to Houweling’s greenhouse that my sous and I took last week? Well, look what we found. Turns out the cucumbers and tomatoes we have been buying all these years are from Houwelings! No wonder we like them so much.

ImageAll said and done, we were all filled up with fresh goodness and ready to go.

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But, wait! What about our weekly loaf of fresh sourdough bread?! Our favorite bakery, the Village Bakery, couldn’t make it to Farmers Market because of the L.A. marathon. No sourdough bread? Not on my watch! So, we walked (briskly) back to my apartment, dropped off the fresh produce, grabbed some fleur de sel, a few thin slices of butter – and in the car we go! (cue very cool driving music)

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Needless to say, we arrived just minutes before they closed. Praise Latte! So there we sat, my sous and I, in the front seat of the sunny car, tearing that delicious loaf into pieces – slathering them with butter and dusting them with fleur de sel. With free street parking to boot!

Now this is a habit I can get used to.

Cooking for Solutions

Yesterday and today I have been doing some recipe testing for the Cooking For Solutions event that happens every year at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Being a Sustainable Seafood Ambassador for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I will be cooking and speaking for the event (Saturday and Sunday followed by book signings for my brand spanking new cookbook, with the addition of competing in an Iron Chef style event on Saturday!). I am creating two recipes: one for grilled Alaska Salmon and one for grilled Alaska Snow Crab.

With the rains rolling in today, I’m taking a bit of a backseat on the grilling, but I did manage to play around a bit with a salmon marinade that includes fresh dill, mint, garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil served with a tzatziki sauce; a cajun-style spice rub salmon; and a salt, pepper, lemon zest, thyme rub with grilled lemon zest asparagus. All are something to build on.

But, what about the crab? Is there anything more delicious than crab with garlic butter? If so, please let me know because I have not been able to find anything that rivals it. I have tried several different dipping sauces as well as an appetizer with marinated candy striped beets, avocado, a dollop of creme fraiche and arugula micro greens.

I also tried a spicy tomato gazpacho with avocado, crab, and the arugula micro greens.

Both were… well, alright,but… hey, it’s no garlic butter.

So, what are your favorite flavor combinations using grilled salmon, or snow crab?

(Now, if only Latte paired well with crab….)

Monsanto Hide And Seek?

Today, sweaty from the gym, I wasn’t quite in the mood to cook just yet, so after ordering a simple meal at my local Thai restaurant with my sous-chef, we began to wonder about where all of the vegetables came from. Not just what supplier or farmer, but where the seeds originate: from the rice to the veggies to the soy sauce.

Before we even finished our meal, we began doing some research on the topic, which included internet research as well as asking my master gardener and farmer friends, and (although we are still researching), our findings are quite unsettling.

Turns out, a company Seminis, (established in 1994 – a conglomeration of a number of Dutch seed companies) sells over 3,500 seed varietals and controls about 40% of the US vegetable market and 20% of the world market. In the US, they supply 55% of the lettuce, 75% of the tomatoes, and 85% of the peppers supplied in supermarkets. Basically, if you have ever eaten a salad, you are eating the produce from Seminis seeds.

The unsettling part? Monsanto bought this company for 1.4 billion dollars (cash!) in 2005. Now that’s a lot of Lattes…

I am a big supporter of small farms, family farms, organics, non-GMO’s. It has been easy for me to stay away from the Monsanto GMO crops like corn and wheat since I buy organic flours and corn and stay away from processed food which contains things like GMO canola oil and high fructose corn syrup. However, this new discovery made me realize that by the mere fact that Monsanto controls so many seeds (albeit non-GMO), that through the simple act of enjoying a meal (in fact most meals) – I have probably still been supporting Monsanto!

Are there ways to farm conventionally without using these seeds that have been bred and grafted for conventional farming? Do farmers really have options? Do consumers who garden have options? And, how will consumers ever really know what they are eating or not if GMO labeling is not mandated and varietals are not labelled?

For a list of Monsanto/Seminis varietals, you can look at their website. As I teach people, farmers markets are so great because you can ask your farmers all about their produce. I know I’ll be asking my farmer friends about varietals this Sunday when I visit the Hollywood Farmers Market.

I’m on the search to find out. With Monsanto buying up world seed companies… is Monsanto really avoidable?