I live 2 minutes away from where I grew up. This was a combination of happy chance and deliberate decision making – we knew we wanted the kind of beauty and community my hometown provided, and when we decided to buy a house, the first one we looked at happened to be here, in this neighborhood, 2 minutes away from my childhood home. What that means is that to some extent, my children are living my childhood – playing in the same park, reading in the same library, walking the same streets.
My childhood comes back the most vividly for, me, however, when I’m in the kitchen, with my daughter (who is truly my mini-me), making dinner from my mother’s recipes. Cooking together is a thread that links the generations of my family. One of our family’s favorites is meatloaf – the recipe is forgiving enough for little hands to help, and we can work together – chopping, mixing, shaping. I let her choose the McCormick spices we add (within reason), and she has pride of ownership when the meal comes out of the oven, “Daddy, I MADE UP this recipe.” The meatloaf becomes hers, as it has been mine, and my mother’s before me. When we gather outside to eat (because we are Californians, and we eat outside three quarters of the year), I hope that my children feel the strong sense of home that I felt, that brought me back here, to my home town, to my neighborhood, and to the family table. That is American Homemade to us.
The holidays are over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. I love the lights and the cookies and the carols and the cocktails and the feasting as much as (or more than) anyone else, but I admit to welcoming the calm space of January, when a little austerity doesn’t go amiss. In the new year, we are all looking for food that’s a little lighter and fresher.
Lighter and fresher doesn’t have to be less flavorful, however. In the last year I’ve made a dedicated effort to cook more with fruits and vegetables, and I’ve been thrilled with the flavor and variety they’ve brought to my diet. That’s why I’m pleased to be partnering with Opal Apples and Kitchen Play to bring you this fresh and flavorful recipe for the New Year.
I first tried Vietnamese food the summer after I graduated from college. I was in the south of France with my parents, who were chaperoning a group of college students through a summer program. We were staying in a hotel in a small town on the Riviera where nearly every restaurant served a variation on the following menu: Fish soup, grilled fish, poached fish, sauteeed fish, tapenade. Although washed down with copious amounts of rose wine, we were desperate for some.. any! variation in our daily bread. So when we stumbled on the town’s only non-French restaurant, we fell on it like starving people.
Vietnamese food was a revelation – clean flavors bright with citrus and fresh herbs and that dank, funky flavor I since learned comes from fish sauce. When I moved to New York that fall, I found a local Vietnamese restaurant that delivered to my apartment, and went to town. I fell hard for crunchy nem wrapped in a lettuce leaf with herbs and dunked in that mysteriously orange nuoc cham, the star anise aromas of Pho (still my favorite food when I have a head cold), delicately crisped Banh Xeo, fragrant with coconut, and Bun Thit Nuong – bland noodles with crispy, savory pork on top. Pork with layers of flavor, charred from the grill. Continue reading Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Tenderloin
I must have missed out on the “party planning gene” that every other person in the world seems to have, or at least other moms. I look at Pinterest, with the decorations and the tablescapes and the elaborate menus – and break out into a cold sweat. The theme for my kids’ birthday parties is “birthday party.” Or really, “Come to our house and eat some cake.”
But I LOVE to have people over. My idea of the perfect summer evening is sitting on our back deck with some good friends while our kids run wild in the back yard, chatting over a glass of wine or a margarita and eating yummy food. The key is relaxing and having fun, not throwing a fit over a menu. So I’m always looking for low-key, low-stress recipes to feed a crowd. Things that I can make that don’t require a lot of last minute preparation (to allow for appropriate amounts of yapping and wine-drinking) but that are delicious enough that people want to come back and hang out some more. Continue reading Crockpot Mexican Pork Carnitas
It’s very strange being pregnant in January. It seems like everyone is going on a diet, vowing to lose weight, committing to a high-intensity exercise plan. Me? I’m craving hamburgers, and trying to decide if it’s a good idea to go to a once a week yoga class. I do hope to lose weight this year, but not before I gain a bunch, and I’m just trying to keep up with my protein needs. Oh, and I plan to eat more vegetables.
This time of year has proven to be difficult, anyhow. My dad died a year ago, and while I steeled myself to face the date itself, I’ve found myself feeling a bit more fragile than I normally am. A year is the traditional period of mourning, but while there is a lot of happiness and even joy in my life, I haven’t stopped tearing up unexpectedly, and I still miss him fiercely.
So instead of salads and superfoods, I’ve been seeking out comfort. One of my favorite Friday night dinners is Toad-in-the-Hole — a British classic that’s basically a Yorkshire pudding with sausages. It’s not health food, but it IS comfort food, and it’s made from scratch (OK, I buy the sausages, but you COULD make them from scratch) and there’s a place for that, too.
I’ve lived in many places during my life, but at heart I’m an Angeleno girl. Los Angeles is my hometown, and the home of the taco. OK, bastardized home of the taco (and home of the bastardized taco). When I was in college and law school and paying flying visits home, I always made sure those visits included tacos. And when we’re talking about real tacos, there is no iceberg lettuce, no shredded cheese, and NO ground beef.
This is a taco: seasoned meat, steamed corn tortillas, onions, cilantro. Maybe a squeeze of lime, maybe a dab of hot sauce. Simple, perfect.
Now that I live here, although there are plenty of visits to the local taqueria, I can get all the ingredients to make fabulous tacos at home. The really good kind of corn tortillas. Cilantro for 25 cents a bunch, and limes for a dollar a dozen. The sweet white onions necessary to real Mexican food. And the meat. Any carniceria worth its salt will sell you carne asada — seasoned beef, ready for the grill. But I’d never attempted to make it myself, until I saw the recipe in the LA Times, in an article about the combining of Mexican and Armenian food traditions in one Angeleno family. It seemed almost laughably easy, so I picked up the ingredients at my local Mexican Armenian market — beef flap meat (though any very thin and flavorful cut of beef will do), cilantro, onions, and the ultimate authentic ingredient: Worcestershire sauce. (LA always has been, and always will be, a melting pot). A few whirls in the food processor, some quality time with the grill, and I had my tacos. No need for a taqueria run.
2 lbs. beef flap meat, or any very thinly cut and flavorful piece of beef.
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the beef, and a teaspoon of salt, or to taste. Blend the ingredients until liquid and rub the marinade all over the beef. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour, or up to 24.
Preheat a grill to medium heat, oil, and grill the marinated meat until the edges are charred and the meat is cooked through -- about 5 minutes on each side.
Slice into small pieces against the grain, and serve in steamed corn tortillas with chopped onions, more cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. And a Corona. And a nice view. And beautiful weather. And a lot of traffic. And the smell of flowers. NOW you're in the City of Angels.
There are times when all I want to cook and eat is super simple comfort food. Then there are other times when I’m willing to put in a little (or a lot!) of effort to make something spectacular. And then there are the times (well, most of the times, to be frank) where I want something spectacular for little to no effort. And that’s where this recipe for grilled brined pork loin comes in.
This is one of those recipes my mom used to make when I was growing up. Because it’s so delicious, and because I knew it took three days to make, I always used to request it for special occasions — my birthday, my high school graduation, spring break in college, when I always went home because it was 85 degrees in LA and 35 in New Haven. So I asked my mother for the recipe, and realized she had been hoodwinking me all these years.
You see, this pork loin does take three days. But the active time is about 45 minutes, and it’s only 5 minutes if you make someone else grill (like I always do — thanks honey!) I often add an extra 3 minutes and make a compound butter my mixing a couple spoonfuls of red wine and a clove of minced garlic into some softened butter (you can also add chopped cilantro and lime juice), chilling it in the refrigerator, and then letting a pat melt over the freshly grilled pork. And for that 5 (or 8) minutes of effort, you get aromatic, juicy flavorful pork with a seared crust and a tender pink interior that’s worthy of the specialest of special occasions. That is the kind of recipe I can get behind.
½ tsp. cumin seeds (My mom uses 5 coriander seeds instead, but I was out of coriander. They're both good)
10 black peppercorns
5 juniper berries
1 gal water
¼ c. sugar
2 T salt
6 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs marjoram
1 pork loin (about 3-5 lbs.)
Lightly crush the cumin seeds, peppercorns and juniper berries. Heat 1 c. water, dissolve the sugar and the salt in the hot water.
In a large bowl, place the pork loin, the water/sugar mixture, the remainder of the water, the spices and the herbs. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days.
Remove the pork loin from the brine (don't rinse it off), grill over indirect heat until the center reaches 137 degrees. (If you cook large pieces of meat with any regularity, you should invest in one of these babies: Probe Thermometer. It will change your life.) The timing depends on the size of your loin and your grill.
Let the loin rest for 10-15 minutes, then slice and serve.
I’ve never been tempted to be a vegetarian. I never went through that adolescent phase where I got squeamish about meat. I don’t find chickens or cows particularly cute; I will cheerfully handle raw meat; and I cook live crustaceans (I figure if I’m going to eat them, I need to be OK with cooking them). I’ve never given up red meat, or eschewed pork products, or cut down on fish. I’m an omnivore, and pretty happy with that state of affairs.
But the world has changed, or maybe my knowledge of it has, and I’m no longer happy with the meat and potatoes diet that I grew up with. The environmental consequences are too great; the agricultural practices too troubling, the implications too grave. It no longer makes sense to eat the traditional American diet — a hunk of meat and two sides. But I’m not willing to become a vegetarian. For one, I’m philosophically opposed to extremes, and I think cutting out an entire category of the human diet is a pretty extreme one. For another, I happen to like meat. Nothing says “summer” quite like a hamburger. Roast chicken is a delight of human existence. And bacon is something to live for.
But what can change, and what has changed, is our approach to eating meat. We’ll still have a meat focused dinner once or twice a week (that roast chicken makes frequent appearances), but we’ll eat other meals that are either entirely vegetarian, or use meat as an accessory, rather than the main event. I call this style of cooking the “meat as condiment” approach. It’s a way to incorporate more vegetables into our diets without feeling like we’re making extra work in our busy lives. As a result, I feel like our diet and our meals are more in balance. Continue reading Grits and Greens Casserole – Almost Meatless Monday
I don’t really understand the marketing of Mother’s Day. I see all these floral pastel cards and delicate lacy handkerchiefs and early morning breakfast in bed and advertisements for “brunch” and “afternoon tea” with fussy hats implied. Let me set the record straight. I am a mom, and I know a lot of moms. An informal survey of what our ideal Mother’s Day would look like involves 1) sleeping in; 2) a pedicure with some celebrity gossip magazines; 3) sushi; 4) chocolate and 5) lots of wine. Maybe this holiday doesn’t sell so well on a greeting card, but it sounds pretty awesome to me. Too awesome to be an also-ran Mother’s Day. Maybe I will name it something else, like “Saturday”. And it will fall once a week.
I don’t come from a place where chili is a thing. Heck, I’m from California — we put barbecue chicken on pizza. We don’t have things. What this means is that I don’t have firm and fixed ideas about what should and shouldn’t be in chili, and as a result, I’ve tried many a chili recipe over the years. I’ve tried white chicken chili, turkey chili, chili con carne, chili without beans, vegetarian chili, what was supposed to be Cliff Huxtable’s super spicy chili from the Cosby Show, and even a really weird one from epicurious that had green olives and raisins (which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t chili. I may not be a firm con carne or con frijoles person, but I feel about chili the way the Supreme Court feels about pornography — I know it when I see it). Continue reading The One I’ve Been Waiting For — Easy Slow Cooker Chili
Based in Los Angeles, the Domestic Front is the home of Kate, a working mom who is low on time but high on life. I hope this site helps you find ways to make your life richer, easier, more beautiful and more delicious. You can read more about me and the site here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!