June 24th, 2012
June 21st, 2012
June 19th, 2012
Mondays in Los Feliz about seven to eight food trucks take over the parking lot of Our Mother of Good Counsel on Vermont. I’ve been meaning to check out the Cuban truck, No Jodas! Good Cuban food in LA is a myth. Versailles is shit. All you die hard fans are wrong. As I am Cuban-American and I’ve eaten Cuban food my whole life my opinion is more valid than yours. Yes, it is. No arguing. Don’t even try commenting on this post by telling me the chicken at Versailles is really good. That’s weak.
No Jodas! which means don’t fuck with me or don’t fuck around is a very common Cuban slang. I love the fact that they named the truck this. As for the food, the Cuban sandwhich was quite good, although I got a chunk of pork that was on the dry side. The bread was not perfect but close enough. The ham croquettes were fantastic. Crunchy, not overly oily, nicely seasoned and deliciously mushy inside. The sweet plantains (maduros) were jut like my mom makes them. Although, the portion was way TOO BIG.
When I went back up to get some napkins the guy in the truck asked me in Spanish how I was enjoying my meal. I said, in Spanish: “It’s really good, but there is not one Cuban cooking in that truck, is there?” Guy, in Spanish: “No, we got ran them all off because Mexicans cook better Cuban food.” I laughed because I understand that Mexicans in LA pretty much cook all of our restuarant food, but alas my Mexican friend I’m not so sure I agree with your assertion. The Cafe con Leche truck is run by Cubans so I’ll report back when I catch up to it.
No Jodas! Don’t fuck around!
Sweet Plantains on the left. Ham croquette on the right.
The food trucks scene.
Loved the name of this truck. Japanese peruvian food. I didn’t get a chance to try it. Lomo is pork tenderloin.
June 15th, 2012
I was born in a hurry. Two months early. Full head of hair. And ready to take on the world. I skipped pre-school and went straight to kindergarten when I was four years old after asking my mother to enroll me. I was done sitting around watching TV all day. I was a child of the late seventies. That’s what parents did back then. Plop a kid in front of the TV. (Little did I know I would spend my adulthood writing for television.) So, I’ve never been known to possess a facility for patience. Also as an Aries, if you believe the kookiness of astrology, I was never meant to be at peace with waiting. I once even had a boss guess that I was an Aries as we sat in the conference room eating lunch and watching dailies. I picked up the remote to quickly forward through a scene we had already seen twice and he said: “You’re really impatient, aren’t you? You need some Pisces energy in your life.” Coincidentally, I was dating my Pisces boyfriend at the time. I’ve learned a lot about taking my time, stopping and breathing and most importantly waiting from my boyfriend. (Because I’m usually waiting FOR him.)
However, the thing that has helped me be more present and patient is the practice of Yoga. I started going to Yoga class a little over nine years ago after a particularly bad bout of anxiety. Impatience coupled with enormous stress tends to morph into anxiety attacks. Usually, my attacks were full blown: hyperventilating, tears, hopelessness, and the desire to scrunch up into a fetal position, hoping to disappear. This time I was experiencing the pins and needles sensation one feels when one’s leg or arm falls asleep. The odd numbness was running down all my limbs and also around my head and down my neck. Not understanding these bizarre symptoms. I called my doctor for an appointment. It didn’t help that I started doing some Internet research about my symptoms and all the signs pointed to MS. The receptionist asked what was wrong and once I gave her the list she asked for my age, paused and said: “You need to come in tomorrow.”
The next day the doctor told me he was concerned that I may have MS. Holy crap, the Internet was right! But once I told him I had started experiencing shortness of breath, he was pretty sure I was having an anxiety attack. Me: “But I know what an anxiety attack is. I’ve never had these symptoms before.” Doctor: “Unfortunately, your body has developed other ways to manifest your anxiety.” Then he gave me a prescription for Xanax and sent me on my way.
After the “real” anxiety attack came that night, I decided I wasn’t going to be on drugs for the rest of my life. A few days later I walked into my first Yoga class and the rest is history. I found an amazing teacher, Patty Pierce, and I dedicated myself to going at least once a week. Those Saturday morning classes became religious for me. If you know me at all, you understand that for me to use the word “religion” is epic. I struggle with my fair share of poses, especially, Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Downward-facing Tree) or Hand Stand for the non-practitioners. Like I mentioned, I’ve been practicing for over 9 years and I am still rarely able to do a Hand Stand without a spotter. I even cried in class once out of my frustration. Why was able to do other inversions and not Hand Stand? Well, the obvious answer is fear. It’s all about what’s going on in my head. I’m physically able to do this pose, but my brain enjoys a litany of conversations with itself about how I’m going to break my neck if I go upside down on my hands, how I’m not strong enough, how I’m not athletic enough. Honestly, that litany is the same reason I get anxiety attacks. I’m too hard on myself. So, I struggle with this pose and I struggle to be kinder and gentler to myself. And I show up almost every Saturday to attempt to calm the demons. However, even when I’ve successfully shut out the inner critic and the inner abuser, I always come face to face with her at the end of class when I’m lying in Savasana (corpse pose).
Now, most people would say you must be a serious bundle of nerves to not be able to relax in the easiest Yoga pose. All you have to do is lie down on the floor, close your eyes and relax. I’m going to remind those people of something: I was born in a hurry. Lying down usually means that I’m going to sleep, which I thankfully have zero problems doing. I know some people fall asleep in Savasana, but that’s not the point of the pose, is it? You have to be aware and conscious of being in the pose. You have to be present, not in the land of nod. When I lie in Savasana, Patty says let the thought come into your head and then leave. But the thought won’t leave and another one enters and then another one and then the next thing I know my brain is a noisy crowded, stinky New York City subway car. The future events of the day, the past events of the previous day, the goals for the next year, how I wish I could take back something I said, how I’m worried about a certain family member, how I wish I could have written a scene better, and the list goes on and on. All of this becomes jumbled in my head while I’m supposed to be lying still on the floor. So I can’t lie still. I fidget and I yawn. I fix my clothes. I scratch my head. I want to crawl out of my skin. I would give anything in the world to just get up, roll up my mat, pick up my bag and walk out of class. But I don’t. Because one day I know that I will be able to lie down quietly and patiently on the studio floor. And one day, the thoughts will enter and leave like they are office workers taking a spin in a revolving door. It may never be perfect and that’s okay. I keep trying. That’s the most important thing. And every time it gets better. In my opinion if you are truly able to master Savasana, you’ve accomplished something amazing. You are able to be still. For someone who was born in a hurry that is a feat as daunting as climbing the highest mountain in the world. I hope I’ll meet you on the top one day.
June 14th, 2012
June 14th, 2012
Last year my friend Alie, came up with the idea of having a summer party where everyone brings their own lobster and Todd cooks them. (A lot of parties in my house revolve around Todd cooking.) We are always up for new and exciting ways to entertain our friends and a lobster fest sounded like an amazing idea. Hence the first anual B.Y.O.L. (Bring your own lobster) occurred in June of 2011. The party was so epic and so much fun we decided to make it an annual event to celebrate the beginning of summer. I bring you… The Second Annual B.Y.O.L.
We keep the invite list relatively small. If the party gets past thirty people it becomes unwieldy and the wait for the grill gets lengthy. Each guest has to decide whether or not to bring the lovely crustaceans alive or parboiled. At Chez Jojo we prefer them to be alive and kicking. We also prefer that you kill your own lobster. If you are going to eat it, than shouldn’t you be able to kill it? (Of course, I am talking some serious shit because I will never do the deed. That’s what Todd’s for.) Many others also elect to eschew the murder segment of the party. So, much of the euthanizing falls on Todd’s shoulders. He does it quickly with a knife through the middle of the lobster’s back and the head. It’s quick, but still a little gooey and gruesome and the lobster will wiggle for a bit. Creepy but you get over it pretty fast because there’s a dish of melted butter waiting at the end of the road. Oh and did I mention YOU GET TO EAT LOBSTER?!
The entire B.Y.O.L. goes for about seven hours and dwindles into a drunken s’mores fest over the BBQ or the fire pit. (I put the kabosh on the pit after the first party when I found chocolate all over my back yard. Not good for the Jojo.)
Here are some highlights of the festivities.
Cheapest price of the day. 99 Ranch Market in San Gabriel. There’s also one in Van Nuys.
On the grill with some lovely corn. Every year we refine the party. Next year we’ll have a separate grill for non-lobster items.
We opened up the newly renovated garage (now todd’s studio) and added a long table. For some reason people don’t want to leave the table during this party. We have plenty of places for people to dine and sit but everyone enjoys the family atmosphere. And everyone gets some odd enjoyment from seeing the size of the lobsters people bring. As my friend, Graz so eloquently put it: “I’ve never seen so many lefty liberals in one place rooting for the death of an animal.”
Todd looking extremely cheery. As you can see, we do not discriminate. Crab claws are completely acceptable.
This sucker was almost 6 pounds. It was shared by Todd, my friend, Brandi and yours truly. I had trouble lifting her up.
Brandi’s half of the monster. I realize now that I was so tipsy at this point I barely ate any lobster.
My sister would not kill her monster lobster, but she would pose with it before Todd killed it. Now, what is more disturbing?
Alie loves her lobster. Don’t try to touch it. She’ll cut you. (Notice the lobster bib. Thank you ,World Market)
These carcassses went into a stock.
The stock. We share it with my friend, Matthew and make yummy linguini and clams for months. (Matthew’s recipe) I’ll post that soon.
If you’d like to see a short lobster snuffporn video, email me.
Already can’t wait for next year!
June 10th, 2012
June 8th, 2012
June 7th, 2012
It started with a challenge. I texted Todd with the protein I purchased. Duck, one of my favorites but not something I would dare to cook in a million years. But then again, I don’t dare to cook many things. The gauntlet was thrown. Todd: Duck? I accept the challenge.
A few hours later he was no where in sight. And he knows how much I dislike eating late because I’m completely geriatric. He got held up at the supermarket. I thought about texting him with a suggestion. Wouldn’t a plum sauce be nice with the duck? They are in season. But I decided to trust the Chatty Chef (a nickname Todd received from my brother-in-law who insists it takes Todd hours to cook something that should only take thirty minutes. Todd enjoys socializing and drinking as he cooks. I wouldn’t have it any other way).
Todd arrived with a grocery bag and an inspiration. Below you will see the most femme-y cookbook on the face of the earth. And only my BF would ask for it as a gift when we were in Paris and then carry it around LA with pride. Behold the lavender cookbook from Ladurée. They are much more famous for their macrons which they invented and are unparalleled. I have eaten them at many other places and NO ONE makes them like Ladurée. This is their “Salé” (salty, savory) cookbook in which there is a recipe for duck with raspberries and lychees. Lychees are a bit hard to come by so Todd decided to do a spin on the recipe. He substituted the raspberries and lychees with cherries and added leeks just because I love them.
I just wish I had been at the market when the cashier said: ”Do you want me to tell you how much the cherries are before I ring you up? They aren’t by the bag. They are by the pound.” Todd: “No, it’s okay. I’m running late.” Cashier: “That will be TWELVE DOLLARS!” The cherries we bought at the Atwater Farmer’s Market this past weekend were three dollars. Thank you Gelson’s for being a GIGANTIC RIP-OFF. The most absurd thing: the duck was only four dollars more than the cherries. But it was all worth it. This was Todd’s first time ever cooking duck. He admitted that it’s always scared him a bit. No need to be frightened of the Aflac mascot, Todd. You made a dish that was absolutely restaurant quality. Now if I can only convince you to audition for that new Bourdain/Nigella Lawson cooking show. You, my dear, have got some chops.
Lavender deliciousness. Ladureé cookbook.
The duck breast. Smells absolutely awful when it’s cooking, but don’t dispair. The stink only lasts a moment. OPEN THE WINDOWS.
The cutting board. (I hate my granite countertop)
The wine. Nice cherry notes, but metallic flat finish. Okay with the duck. Probably won’t buy it again.
The finished plate! Now doesn’t that look wonderful.
Recipe below. Bon Appetit!
muscovy duck breast, i.e. crack duck from McCalls (butcher in Los Feliz on Hillhurst)
dutch butter potatoes
salt and pepper
cut potatoes thin
add some butter to pan
brown potatoes on med heat
add leeks when potatoes browned but not done
keep cooking on low heat so leeks don’t burn
pit cherries and add to small pot
add a bit of water, sugar and cognac,cook until all soft and yummy (yes, my BF likes to use the word yummy frequently)
add a little maizena (corn starch) to thicken
score duck breasts fat side in cross hatch pattern
heat up cast iron pan
brown fat side down 5 or so min
sear other side a few seconds.
put in 325 preheated oven for 6 min rare, 8 min med. (130 temp inside duck)
let rest a minute on cutting board
cut into inch thick slices
plate potatoes and add a few very thinly sliced rings of fresh leeks on top
put cherries on plate and add duck slices on top
add a few fresh pitted cherries
a glass of pinot = happy GF
June 6th, 2012
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