Chicken Liver Pate
Several weeks ago my token hostessing friend in LA decided to gather the extended crowd together for a Friendsgiving celebration potluck. (yes, this post epitomizes the #latergram-ness of my holiday documentation). The Google+ invite immediately exploded with dibs on dishes everyone wanted to bring, and the universal claim that each invitee’s family stuffing recipe was the best. Despite my solid—and completely correct—belief that my own mother’s stuffing is, in fact, the best in the world, I took the opportunity to try a dish I’d never made before but that had been on my To Try list for many months: pâté.
My parents’ long-time neighbor and friend, and my own frequent inspiration for many of my side dishes, had served the Silver Palate’s chicken liver pâté at a Christmas party the year before and ever since I had wanted to give it a try. I followed the Silver Palate recipe to the letter (at least the way it is printed here, as my print copy was in a box in Oregon) with the one addition of a handful of roughly chopped pistachios along with the currants. This was in honor of my favorite chicken liver mousse from Viande Meats which, for all you Portlanders, can still be found at City Market and should not be missed.

I served this pâté next to spiced sweet potato hummus for the vegetarians in attendance and both were extremely well received. The hummus recipe is also below, but due to my poor timing and the considerable lack of light hours in November the photos really don’t merit their own post… But then I’m a visual cook.

Also a quick note on brandy: I’m told that calvados is the ‘secret ingredient’ of this recipe and what many adherents swear by as the reason this pâté is so delicious. So if at all possible, don’t substitute the calvados!
Pate with Raincoat Crackers

Silver Palate Pate with Pistachios

2 ribs of celery, with leaves
6-8 whole peppercorns
6 cups water
pinch of salt
1lb chicken livers
pinch of cayenne
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup calvados
½ cup (or a little less) dried currants
¼ cup (or a little more) roughly chopped pistachios

Boil the celery and peppercorns in the water. Add salt and lower to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add livers and simmer very gently for another 10 minutes. The livers should still be slightly pink on the inside.
Drain and remove livers to a food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except currants (and pistachios if using). Process until very smooth.
Scoop into a bowl and mix in currants and pistachios. (I saved a few of each to press into the top) smooth top, cover with saran and chill for about 4 hours.
Before serving, allow to rest at room temp for about 30 minutes. Makes about 3 cups of very rich, creamy pâté.

Bonus Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus!
I also served a slightly modified version of this Sweet Potato Hummus from Vegetarian Ventures.
Sweet Potato Hummus
Her photos are infinitely better than mine and make me want to rush out and buy a box full of these swing-top jars for my kitchen adventures.
I just used a can of chick peas and doubled all the spices (my general rule of thumb, especially with hummus) and sprinkled a little extra cinnamon on top to serve. Delish!

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Some Shockingly Pink Hummus

Hey remember that post back in…august or september, where I complained for awhile about how little time I have to post new recipes and photographs? Turns out quarter two of my new life as a full time employee/pretty much full time student hasn’t proven to be much different than the first. I have, however, managed to squeeze a few notable life changes into the last few months, making them feel like the last few years.
I went to Brazil! As referenced in the short, sweet, expose on Brazilian coffee in the last post. I’m still talking about it because Brazil was at the top of my geographical bucket list and to be perfectly honest I do consider myself a slightly different person now that I’ve seen it.
Also I moved! Over an excruciating October of apartment searches, lease signings, roommate finding, packing, loading, driving, unloading, unpacking I have left the haven that was my old Spanish apartment in Long Beach for a very modern (but lovely, really) unit in West LA. It was a marathon, but the absolute best part of the new place are the floor to ceiling windows that wrap around the living/dining nook across from the kitchen. I’m ecstatic to try some shots in a natural light-flooded space, so with any luck (maybe holiday cookies???) I’ll post new photos soon!

In the meantime, I’ve been sitting on these bright pink photos for much too long waiting for a chance to post. A friend of mine (and new neighbor now! So excited, Missy!) and fellow football fan made beet hummus for one Sunday game and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days, had to try it myself. It’s about as easy as you can get. Steam or roast the beets before hand, and then blend them right on in to your standard hummus recipe! I never measure my hummus ingredients anyway so season to taste and you’re done! A slightly more finite recipe follows.

I love this colorful and flavorful hummus idea. It’s a great gluten-free snack option. It’s great on any veggies and I even dolloped some squash soup with it for a hot/cold color shock in some orange soup!
Next I’m thinking maybe avocado hummus? If you have a favorite hummus flavor or suggestion let me know!

Shockingly Pink Beet Hummus
3-4 medium beets (about 1-1½ cups cooked)
1 can chickpeas
1-2 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp Tahini
3 Tbsp Olive Oil (depending how much you like/want oil. You could use as little as 2 probably, and some recipes suggest ¼ c. for me it really has to do with consistency. I start with a little less, and then add right at the end if I want to thin out the hummus without watering it down)
1-2 tsp cumin

Peel and cut your beets in to medium chunks and either boil until tender or toss in some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 415 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I love roast veggies and made some extra so this is what I did.
In a food processor pulse the chickpeas and beets with at least some olive oil and tahini to start for lubrication. The beats will also add a good amount of moisture. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, pepper to taste and more oil, tahini, or lemon juice if you prefer, until you have the right taste and consistency.
Note that the flavors will meld when you chill the hummus in the fridge (at least 20-30 minutes is best) and it will also thicken as it cools. So if your warm hummus is a bit runny that’s totally normal.

Brazilians: And Their Coffee

As you can imagine, experiencing Brazilian coffee at the source was a huge excitement for me when I learned I’d be going to Sao Paolo on business for a week.
Unlike the American mantra of ‘more is more’, Brazilians inhale their coffee in tiny, shot-sized cups. But even though the quantity of liquid is much less, the time taken to consume it is nearly equal, the Brazilians sipping slowly over a highly animated conversation (about what, I have no idea, I still don’t speak Portuguese), and the amount of caffeine is much more. The Brazilians love their sweets, but I am baffled by the nation-wide sweet tooth that this country endures and still cannot top ours in obesity rates.

My favorite cookie in the enormous packaged cookie aisle. And these really charming sweet carts were also all over Paraty, but i didn’t manage to snag a shot myself, Paraty sweet cart ..but i digress.

The point is, sweet coffee is no exception to this rule. A trail of sugar packets follows any coffee drinker wherever he goes. Even I, after late night dinners with clients found myself supplementing the little shots with copious amounts of sugar.
Cappuccinos, however, are a whole separate matter. It took me several days to realize that to Brazilians, this is where a cappuccino comes from

I don’t know if it’s the ease of preparation of the built in sweetness but about the third time I ordered a cappuccino and the beautiful little cup of foam that appeared was filled tasted a lot more like hot chocolate with a large lump of sugary powder at the bottom, I realized Brazil and I were not on the same coffee page. I mean what are they playing at. They have the abominably strong coffee, and they’re already going to the trouble of steaming the milk. Why not just make a real cappuccino?! But alas, I’m sure this question too would have been lost in translation.

I’ll admit that I developed a special soft-spot for the instant hot chocolate masquerading as a serious beverage. I began looking for it in grocery stores once I figured out the ploy, but couldn’t get my hands on any. If anyone knows where to find it, particularly with unintelligible Portuguese directions for ‘brewing’ on the back, I’d be ever so grateful.

Oatmeal: Breakfast of Champions

Living the life of a student again has done several things to my day-to-day consciousness:
It’s reminded me that homework is only a charming collegiate fantasy when you don’t have any.
I’m now a firm believer that masters degrees should be given out simply for successful time management.
Constant demand on creative capacities puts a giant damper on my excessive creative juices, not to mention energy with which to peruse the internet, concoct new kitchen experiments, or even barely cook for myself, much less photograph and write about all these things (if only I could turn this particular hobby into a lucrative one).
Free time has become a fantastical myth read about only in beach-fiction (of which I have no free time to read)

Spending weekends at home in front of my drafting table, though, has encouraged me to fall back on some quick home cooking, particularly weekend breakfasts. Now for someone who waits the entire week for the Saturday morning stroll up to the coffee shop, to sit with my laptop or a book, and enjoy the company of strangers for hours, this is a huge sacrifice. But I pulled the canister of old-style oats out of the cupboard (unused other than for chocolate chip cookies for years) and whipped up some Saturday morning breakfast brain food. The grilled peaches came out so well that I had to pull together my photo backdrop, reflectors, and some pretty serving pieces to snap some shots before getting back to work.

This really isn’t a recipe so much as a preparation of ingredients (and my wanting to share the few photos I’ve managed to snap in the last month) and a reminder to eat your oatmeal! While it’s not a luxurious late morning with a latte, my brain is definitely appreciative of the break from the coffee and biscotti diet.

(if you need them)
1. Cook oatmeal to package instructions. I use a bit of milk if I have it, a liberal sprinkling of brown sugar and a dash of vanilla. Just to keep things interesting.
2. Cut a peach in half, drizzle with a bit of oil and more brown sugar and lay, cut side down, on a skillet (or grilling pan if you’ve got one. Makes for lovely grill marks) at med-high heat for maybe 3 minutes until sugar begins to caramelize and the edges brown.
3. Combine. Eat. Enjoy. Get back to work.

Local Food in a Global World

I want to post something a little different today, I want to start sharing more interesting things I find about food trends and general foodieism and today I read about the perfect project to kick it off.

Yesterday’s Daily GOOD email yesterday highlighted Forage Kitchen. It’s a new project from Iso Rabin, creator of ForageSF, the underground, anti-commercial food market in San Francisco that operated until last year when the department of Public Health served them with a cease-and-desist. Forage Kitchen, however, is a Kickstarter candidate that, if funded, will offer anyone interested in craft food a venue to pursue their craft, hobby or even business. Read the full article here, and I highly recommend that you do.

This idea instantly sparked all kinds of excitement and pride in my (extended) community of foodies, in me. (and a good bit of jealousy i that I’m no longer in SF, But we’ll stick with the positive reactions for this post). I love the idea of a communal/commercial kitchen, and the pulling together of a community to bring small batch products to a modern market.

For any of you who know me in my life as a designer you know I’m a huge proponent and advocate of the Technology Backlash, and am ready point it out at every turn. Yesterday’s Daily GOOD (a great source for social design inspiration if you’re not reading it already) made me think a lot about where these trends are now and where they are headed in the future.
The technology backlash is pretty self explanatory, but in case you don’t believe me, a couple nibbles to ponder over:

Turning off the internet – People are increasingly making time to disconnect from their gadgets, email and the constant stream of communication and getting back to the present and physical. Phone Stack anyone?

Disguising hi-tech is low-tech – Ok, I understand that this is greatly tongue and cheek, and the hipsters do it for the irony, but this speaks volumes.

Fairytale Media – Ok, you can tell me this is unrelated, and that there has always been and will always be a market for period and fantasy television and movies but two network primetime shows based on fairytales and two interpretations of Snow White in theaters in one year? People are begging for a simpler time, when good and evil were as obvious as black and white.

Locavore movement – This is a much older movement that started for many, independent reasons, but it brings us back to food, which is really what we’re here to discuss. Widely available farmers markets, community gardens and CSA services (if you’re in the LA area and you aren’t part of one of these, stop reading and sign up here now) aren’t just for urban metropolises anymore. Nor is harvesting veggies from your back yard relegated to the rural Midwest.

Urban farming is huge, even Anthropologie is filled with books like Grow, Cook, Eat and The Balcony Gardner. which is pretty interesting if you think about it. What interest does a trendy, alternative women’s retail store have with gardening and food trends? Spotting trends and marketing a lifestyle, that’s what.

Small Batch Foods – This is possibly my favorite of the above, and why I am so glad to see something like Forage Kitchen getting press. The best example of this I know of right now is undoubtedly Fab. Fab partners with independent designers and artists to put artisan products and food items at the fingertips of the internet audience. It’s something that sets them apart from the over-exposed fire-sale website trend and creates something unique and community building on the internet.

People are making real moves toward returning to simpler, more controllable and less processed lifestyles. Whether that means a healthier lifestyle through better work/life balance or simply by eating fresher, less processed foods there’s a wave of trends that are all pushing toward the same goal. But we still live in a globalized, ultra connected, instant gratification world and what that affords us a pretty amazing world of craft products and artisan opportunities. Today’s world can give us the handmade, the unique, the artisan product via modern consumer pathways. And that’s really a pretty amazing power.
What better way to use our uber-tech world for good than to use the internet, and social media, to create a communal kitchen for small batch craft foods?
Maybe the next trend will be not simply shutting off technology, but turning it into a force for good in our movement back toward craft and artisan pursuits.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think in the comments!

Strawberry Basil Jam

This project was actually inspired by some insanely cheap swing top glass jars I found on the Crate&Barrel clearance sale. Before I knew it a set of 6 were in my shopping cart and then whoops they showed up at my door a few days later.
I think I have a particular affinity for little bitty bowls, glasses, jars, etc. because in the event that an experiment fails, it’s already in a very small portion. OR in the event that it’s a delicious success, small portions make it feel like a rare delicacy.

Sure, we’ll go with that.

Strawberries are all the rage in SoCal right now and these beautiful, giant, bright red strawberries were on special at wholefoods so strawberry preserves became the intended occupant of my mini swing top jars.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Aside from a personal tendency to burn things required ‘constant stirring’ (well they can’t possibly mean constant stirring can they? I always think. Turns out, they do). And then I threw some basil leaves in the pot.

You didn’t think I could just make classic, simple, strawberry jam did you??

And in all honesty I think the results were more successful than not. I was pretty worried there for a bit, as the jam was thickening up and the basil scent was way overpowering that of the strawberries

2 lbs. fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1 ¼ c sugar
Zest and juice of a large lemon
½ tsp vanilla
small handful large fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Put the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When the sugar has dissolved use a potato masher to mash the strawberries, leaving some larger chunks (because that makes the best kindo f jam).
Increase the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Using a candy thermometer, boil and stir constantly, and until the jam reaches 220°f
NB: Stirring ‘constantly’ here was a direction I took with a grain of salt. Which resulted in my having to carefully scoop the un-burned jam off the top when finished, leaving the thick, black layer of burned-beyond-repair strawberries on the bottom, and spending the next three days alternately soaking and scrubbing my best heavy pot. Jus’saying.
When you have about 5 minutes left of boiling, toss in the basil and continue to stir. The basil smell will be very strong. I was a little worried the taste would be equally as overpowering but by the time the jam cooled the basil taste softened nicely with the strawberries.
When the jam reaches temperature, or at lest thickens to a point where it coats a spoon and looks delicious enough to eat, remove from heat and ladle into jars.
If you’re going to consume the jam right away, like within a couple of weeks or so, there’s no need to process the jars, just seal and place in the fridge to cool.

Homemade preserves also travel well and make excellent gifts!
Happy Birthday, Al! Thanks for being my fruit preserves guinea pig! Love, Toast.

Quick and Easy Spinach Pesto

I wanted to try something a little different tonight. I had a big bunch of spinach in the fridge that I needed to use before leaving town for the weekend. Combing through the kitchen I realized I had pretty much everything for pesto, except my basil leaves were looking pretty sad. So bam spinach pesto. I scavenged the last few leaves of my basil and added that too but I’m fairly sure the results would have been equally good without. I also combined the last of my pine nuts, almonds and cashews to pull together a ½ cup of nuts. But suddenly I was able to turn several ingredients that would otherwise go to waste or stale into quick, easy, delicious pesto.
So I’m sacrificing the involved photo process I love to obsess over because I really wanted to share this recipe but I’m also starving, and still need to pack tonight.

One bunch (about 2 cups) fresh baby spinach
1 cup fresh basil leaves (
½ cup pine nuts or other nuts. I used a combination of pine nuts, almonds and cashews to use up some remnants
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. I have a tiny food processor so it was especially helpful to start with the nuts and garlic. When those are a course grind start to pile in the leaves, you may have to do this in batches, along with the lemon and zest. Drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running and add the parmesan right at the end, along with pretty liberal amounts of salt and pepper and pulse just to fully combine.
The flavors will meld and change (the garlic will become stronger, as will the salt, depending what type you use) over the next few days. Adjust salt, pepper, or even oil if you choose to later.
Keep sealed in the fridge and put on pretty much anything.