Saturday, January 30, 2010

When Restaurants Kick the Bucket

Photo from

Do you have a bucket list? A roster of things that you want to accomplish before you kick the bucket?

If you're like me, food plays a big part on the ol' bucket list.

There's just one problem with including restaurants on your list of things to do before you die: the restaurant might kick the bucket before you do.

Just this week, two Los Angeles resaurant icons bit the dust. I've been to one, Goody's in San Gabriel, perhaps hundreds of times over the last 20 years. I always talked about but never made it to the second, Papadakis Taverna, the Greek restaurant in San Pedro.

For years, Goody's was the location for my weekend Breakfast Club with a good friend. The waitresses weren't exactly mean, but they had no patience for special requests. (Half caf, half decaf coffee? Go to Starbuck's, Sweetie.) Well, maybe they were a little mean, but that was part of the charm. My friend Carol and I assumed that we would be eating pancakes and eggs at Goody's forever, or at least until we were as old as the other shriveled little old ladies who frequented the place. But, alas, Goody's served their last cup of bitter coffee last week.

There's talk of a new location in El Monte, but it won't be the same without the familiar Googie architecture and crusty waitresses.

the Greek restaurant that was as well known for its raucous dancing and breaking plates as its food, will serve its last meal and shatter its last plate on Sunday, February 1. Friends and I always talked about dancing and eating at Papadakis, but we never made it.

Now I'm feeling a sense of urgency. What's on my food bucket list? This spring I plan to attend the annual Ramp Festival in Richwood, West Virginia, a daylong celebration of the pungent wild onion that is now a staple at high-end restaurants.

How about you? Remember, we won't live forever and neither will even the most iconic restaurants.

(For a list of 100 foods to try before you die, check out this just-published, SF-centric list from 7x7 SF. Scroll down for a look at Roadside Diner's pulled pork sandwich. I don't think I can live without this sandwich.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Citrus Saturday

I was 21 when I made the decision to move from South Carolina to Southern California.

Granted, it was a teaching contract that lured me out to the Golden State (and a snotty promise to my parents that I would move as far away from home as possible when I finished college). But I have to admit that I had been seduced by watching one too many episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies: swimming pools, movie stars. Throw in the beach and Disneyland, and I was hooked.

More than two decades later, I'm now a little jaded at the sight of movie stars. Mickey and Minnie Mouse no longer do it for me. But there's one thing that reminds me that I'm living the golden life in the Golden State: citrus.

And if citrus was gold, I'd be a wealthy lady. Our backyard trees are heavy with oranges, grapefruits, Meyer lemons and pomellos.

I still can't get over the thrill of going to the back yard to pluck oranges for a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

It took 12 oranges to make about 24 ounces of juice.

Our grapefruit are a little sour, so I topped one with brown sugar and threw it under the broiler for 10 minutes.

Get 'em while they're hot! Just let it cool before digging in.

Nothing goes to waste. I use part of the peel to make orange zest and the remainder will go to our neighborhood goats.

I'm making a Harvey Wallbanger cake with the rest of the fresh OJ and the orange zest. Of course, that means that I'll get to sip a Wallbanger cocktail while the bundt is in the oven (and before and after).

Cheers to the good life in Southern California!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Old Fashioned Italian Soup

Last winter was so unseasonably warm and dry that I resorted to simmering stews while the air conditioning hummed. It just wasn't right.

But not so this year.
It's cold, wet and windy. Pouring rain is interspersed with pounding hail. It's the perfect time for a bowl of soothing, steaming soup.

Last Sunday I attended the Soups, Stews and Comfort Foods Class at Old Town Cooking School in Pasadena. This recipe for Old Fashioned Italian Soup alone was worth the price of admission. It's easy, economical, comforting and delicious - all the things a good pot of soup should be.

Old Fashioned Italian Soup

- 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

- 2 cups chopped celery

- 1 cup chopped onions
- 2 lb. zucchini, cubed
- 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. fresh basil
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp. sugar

- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 green pepper, chopped

1. Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces and saute in a frying pan until brown.

2. Add the celery andonions and saute until tender

3. In a large pot, place the sausages, celery and onions.

4. Add the zucchini, tomatoes and seasonings.

5. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes

6. Add the green pepper and cook uncovered for 10 more minutes.

7. Serve with fresh-grated parmesan cheese.

Let it rain!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Roll in the Cabbage (Old Fashioned Cabbage Rolls)

How many helpings can you handle?

From childhood to early adulthood
, my body was more angles than curves, and more plains than hills. But looks deceived. At age twelve, I had the appetite of a longshoreman and could eat anyone under the table.

My West Virginia cousins still like to tell the story of the cabbage rolls. When Aunt Kathleen served up a giant pot, I couldn't get enough. Seconds? Thirds? Ha! Legend has it that I returned to the pot ten times before I rolled over and said "Enough!"

Kathleen has passed on, but her daughter-in-law Frances has carried on the tradition. When I reunited with the Allens three years ago, they asked what I'd like for dinner. Of course, I requested cabbage rolls.

They didn't disappoint, and, this time, I asked for the recipe.

The simplicity, especially the "can of tomato juice" for the sauce, surprised me. I don't dare tinker with the recipe for the cabbage rolls, but, since then, I've been doctoring up the sauce, using crushed tomatoes instead of tomato juice, and adding depth with sauteed onions and garlic, honey and a squeeze of a Meyer lemon.

Kathleen's Famous Cabbage Rolls (with Susan's adaptations)
(Makes 10 to 12 Rolls)

1 lbs. Ground Beef
1/2 lb. Sausage (Mild)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Slices of Bread Crumbs
1 Cup Instant Rice

1 Egg
1/2 t. Cumin
1/2 t Turmeric

1 Small Onion, Finely Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped

2 T. Canola Oil
2 Cans Crushed Tomatoes
1 Meyer Lemon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

2 T. honey

For Cabbage Rolls:

Mix together ingredients and shape in to fist size meatballs. Roll up in cabbage leaves that have been parboiled until tender.

For Sauce:

Saute onions and garlic in oil until softened. Add two cans crushed tomatoes, honey and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and simmer while preparing cabbage rolls.

To Assemble:

Put cabbage rolls in a large pot (I use an enamel cast iron pot), cover with sauce and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

When I ate this dish with the Allen clan, they served it with garden-fresh corn on the cob, fresh-baked rolls and gallons of sweet tea.

(My apologies for the long blogging absence and the jumble of font sizes. Blogspot is not cooperating.)