Saturday, October 30, 2010

Power of a Marshmallow

I am not an economist.  In fact, I spent much of my time in my one college econ class sleeping.  That hasn't stopped me from forming opinions about what is a great economic idea and what is economic suicide.  American jobs shipped to other countries is a bad economic idea.  Buying massive amounts of goods produced in other countries is a bad economic idea.  Spending copious amounts of personal income in megastores, such as WalMart, is a bad economic idea.  Supporting local businesses is a very good idea.

Trickle-down economics, supply-side economics, horse and sparrow theory, noblesse oblige, Reaganomics, call it what you will, works only for the rich.  Making the rich richer at the expense of the working class should actually be called the piss-on-them theory, full force, not a trickle in sight.  I actually believe people would be comfortable with the idea that some are wealthier than others, if the wealthy weren't always trying to screw workers out of just one more dime. This makes me think of all the low-information voters who vote against their best interest by responding to the shrillest political voices. Those who shill for big business always have the biggest mouths and pithiest slogans. They're like shiny bits of trash to a magpie.

I believe the very foundation of a strong economy begins with the working class and how we spend our money.  Our very powerful collective dollars are the answer to much of our country's economic cancer.  We should spend our dollars on the products of local businesses, thereby building up our local economy and creating local jobs. This brings the substantial benefits of buying wonderful products and developing relationships with the business owners.  With such local support, businesses grow, and the weakened roots of economic stability begin to strengthen and thrive. Suddenly, a business that employed just one now employs 10. 

Which brings me to marshmallows.

I recently attended an event in Los Angeles showcasing local businesses and their products, Artisanal LA.  The products were all edible or food-related and locally made.  As I walked through the event, I was deeply moved by the creative energy and vitality in the room.  The business owners and their employees were excited to present their products to people and people were absolutely loving what they were tasting and learning.  They were also buying.  I saw a lot of very full bags at Artisanal LA.  If just half the people who attended the 2-day event choose the locally made product the next time they shop, our economy is heading in the right direction.

After tasting vanilla bean marshmallows from Plush Puffs, I can assure you, itty-bitty, jet-puffed fluff will taste like glue.  I'm planning on doing my part in saving the economy by eating as many of these marshmallows, and other tasty delights from local businesses, as possible.  I encourage you to do the same. Check out the Artisanal LA site for the businesses who participated, source local products, visit farmers markets, and share what you find with others. 

The path to economic recovery begins with the thoughtful steps we make every day with our dollars.  I think about the safety speech we are given on aircraft when we are told to take care of our own oxygen mask before helping others.  We can only help the nation when we can breathe ourselves.

Here is a brief list of some of my favorite finds at Artisinal LA. We'll be loyal customers of these following companies:

The Welsh Baker
Delicious grilled cakes.  We bought classic, walnut maple, blueberry.  Planning to order pumpkin soon! As you would expect, coffee or tea and a Welsh cake is just a perfect combination.  Really fabulous with a dessert wine, such as Muscat.  These darling cakes are really, really addictive.

Lindy & Grundy
The sad part is we never got to meet Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura (Lindy & Grundy) because they were always talking to people when we got to their booth.  The good news is we are going to be customers of their butcher shop and hope they will be open for Christmas!  From their website:

We will be offering beef, lamb, pork and chicken that are all sourced locally and free of hormones and antibiotics. In addition to custom cut meats, we will be making all of our sausages, roast beef, pastrami and much more in house!

Plush Puffs
Simply the very best marshmallows in the world. Fairly sure someone is coming into our home and eating them when we are not here.  We can't possibly be going through all these bags of marshmallows ourselves!

Xarene makes the most extraordinary tarts I've ever tasted.  They are fresh, delicate and delicious.  She often uses ingredients from her own garden as well as the gardens of friends.  She'll even make you a tart from fruit grown in your own yard, if you'd like one.

Morning Glory Confections
Max Lesser makes some very tasty brittle.  Loved the Fleur de Sel & Peanut, Indian Curry & Pistachio, New Mexico Chili & Pumpkin Seed, Thai Curry & Peanut.  We've been using this brittle as an appetizer and a dessert.  We're doing some wine pairings with this as well.  Haven't had it yet but am certain the Fleur de Sel & Peanut with Prosecco would be terrific.

San Angel Mole
Hand-crafted, all natural, small batch traditional Mexican sauces.  We bought the Black Mole, Red Mole, and Cascabel sauces.  All quite delicious.  Excellent recipes on their website

Jenkins Jellies
I have to admit, we are going a little overboard with their Hell Fire Pepper Jelly.  We're putting it on everything!  Toast, meat, fruit, cheese, chocolate, Morning Glory peanut brittle, The Welsh Baker cakes, Plush Puffs marshmallows.  Yes, it's that good.  We bought three bottles.  Need more!


Saturday, October 23, 2010


I've been waiting, quite excitedly, for this weekend for months.  The inaugural Artisanal LA opens this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, at the Cooper Building in downtown Los Angeles.

"...75 local, handmade and artisanal vendors."

Randy and I are supporters of local businesses and this event makes our shopping so much easier.  I cannot wait to meet the participating vendors and make their products part of our lives.  I also plan on doing some shopping for upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  I am planning to make my own apple butter and chutneys this season, but I think there will be plenty of room in my holiday gift baskets for some of the gems I find at Artisanal LA

I spent some time going through the vendor list and researching the participants, so I have a loosely designed plan for the day.  Some of the vendors I'm most interested in meeting:

The Welsh Baker
"Not quite a cookie, not quite a scone. Delicious with milk, coffee, tea or alone."  Maker of a lovely Welsh baked good that is not too sweet, 100 calories each, and made from all natural ingredients.  I'll take a dozen!

Cake Monkey Bakery
Bakers of my new favorite treat pop pies, their version of the pop tart (something I actually never ate in my life!). Also, looking forward to sampling their new Banana Cream Cakewich.

Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows
Let me just say, toasty coconut and caramel swirl.

Backwards Beekeepers
"Let the bees be bees!"  Amazing group of local beekeepers, who rely on natural practices rather than pesticides and chemicals to keep their bees thriving.  C
an honey get any better?

Chicks with Knives Perishable Pickle Shop
Bacon jam.  Yeah.

Lindy & Grundy
Their new butcher shop will be opening on Fairfax in December and their use of locally produced, sustainable meat will keep me a very loyal customer.  They worked apprenticeships at Hudson Valley's Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats and now they are here.  Here in the Fairfax District.  Hooray!

More to tell when I return.  Must eat and shop now!

Artisanal LA
October 23-24, 2010

Cooper Building
860 S. Los Angeles Street
Follow on Twitter @artisanalla

$15 at the door.
Portion of proceeds benefit a number of local charities including Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and LAUSD Edible School Garden Programs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sublime Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato and Radish Salad

Randy and I absolutely love this little salad.

I had 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, a couple of radishes, and a dainty shallot wedge in the fridge.  The cool, misty weather called for something warming and roasted this morning.  The combination of this, a complete improvisation, is eat-all-of-it-now delicious.  

Crazy Daisy Love!
Ooh, and I used my beloved Crazy Daisy 1 quart Corning Ware.  Mad collector of this line


Sweet Potato and Radish Salad

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 large radishes
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
sea salt to taste
cracked pepper to taste
a dusting of cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 425.

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes.  Place in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, some sea salt, cracked pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Gently mix.  Place the sweet potato mixture on a small baking pan and roast for about 30 minutes.  I kept a careful eye on this, wanting the sweet potato to get to a carmelization point without completely burning.  The extra effort is worth it, as the sweet potato at this browning point reaches a gloriously intense flavor stage.  

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, slice the radishes very thinly.  I have every kitchen gadget in the world, yet I still prefer to chop, mince, slice, mix, fold, and knead by hand.  Soothing.  Contemplative.  Also mince the shallots and chop the pistachios.  You can add whole pistachio pieces, as well.  I think they would be terrific.  Hazelnuts (cobnuts for my British friends!) in place of pistachios would also work.  Had I been able to get myself out our back door to my herb garden, I would have sprinkled some freshly chopped chives into this, as well.  Our herb garden is so healthy.  Basil, rosemary, parsley, tarragon (true tarragon!), chives, oregano, and English mint all growing madly.  

In your favorite salad dressing bowl, mix the honey mustard and lemon juice.  Remove sweet potatoes from the oven and place in a 1 quart mixing bowl. Add the radishes, shallots and pistachios, fold in the salad dressing and it is ready to eat.    

Final note: 

I think French Breakfast Radishes, with their extra kick, would be quite tasty in this salad, as well.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Couscous Festival!

Chef Farid Zadi is an inspiring chef.  I learned a great deal about the cooking of North Africa from his work, which I featured on I Cook The World.  Chef Zadi's Couscous Festival takes place this weekend, October 16-17, at his new cooking school Ecole de Cuisine Pasadena.

Couscous is just one of those words I love saying, like bubble, elbow, and patchouli.

Along with Chef Zadi and Executive Chef Susan Park, guest lecturers include Paula Wolfert, Clifford Wright, Charles Perry and Faye Levy.  There will be music throughout the day including some Saharan blues.  Blues, mint tea and couscous!  Events like this remind me why I love Southern California.  Hope to see you there.

Tickets must be purchased in advance for one of two sessions on either Saturday or Sunday.  Your ticket price includes food samplings.  Tickets available at Couscous Festival. $20 per session. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

To Armenia

From the poem “Mysteries of Existence” by Armenia poet Alicia Ghiragossia

What is the mystery
of eternity
that it can be locked
in a minute of waiting
a second of absence
a split second of need?
How can time stretch
when existence burns
with nonexistence?
How many eternities
have I still to fold up
and put aside
until I see you?
Where are you?

And, so, to Armenia on I Cook the World.