Balsamic Vinegar; Ultimate Peanut Butter; Chili Diet; Apple Dessert; Mexican Markets; Monet's Palate

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Balsamic Vinegars; Ultimate Peanut Butter; Chili Pepper Diet; Apple Desserts; Monet's Palate Laura Avery spoke with fruit detective David Karpf about the Muscat grapes of Alexandria. (Elmore Liman is selling them grapes this week.) They have seeds, are slightly softer than commercially grown grapes, and have a wonderful sweet flavor and mouthfeel. Congratulations to David who appeared on the new Martha daytime show this week, discussing an extensive variety of apples.

Jeff Rieger of Penryn Orchard Specialties introduces us to his chocolate persimmons, which are orange on the outside but have a caramel brown color inside. He also sells Hoshi Gaki, or Japanese Massaged Dried Persimmons. Jeff will ship long distance. You can contact him at 916-769-5462 or JHrieger@sbcglobalnet.

Laura also met up with walking-food-encyclopedia and cook extraordinaire Amelia Saltsman. The market is teeming with okra, which is a is part of the mallow family and a favorite in the south, the Middle East, and Japan. Amelia shared a recipe for this underappreciated vegetable that promises not to be too slimy. Amelia says that while "true aficionados find okra's mucilaginous thickening qualities (think gumbo) one of its charms" she focuses on its "pearly seeds and tender ribbed flesh-and asparagus-y flavor." She advises by not piercing the pod, you'll avoid okra "slime."

Roasted Okra
Makes 6 servings.

  • 1 lb red or green okra (look for small slim pods, 2-3 inches in length)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Japanese red pepper flakes (togarashi)*
  • 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse okra and rub dry with paper towels. Trim the stem ends but not the caps of the okra. Place the okra on a large baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Spread the okra out on the sheet so they do not crowd and roast in the upper third of the oven for 15-20 minutes until edges are browned and crisped and the okra is tender, giving the pan a shake to turn the okra halfway through the cooking time. Place on serving dish and squeeze lemon over all. Season with additional salt and red pepper.

*Togarashi is the tabletop seasoning commonly found in Japanese restaurants and is available in Asian stores and most supermarkets. It is more finely ground than our red pepper flakes, but these may be substituted.
- 2005, Amelia Saltsman.

Second Reminder: On Sunday, October 9, join Los Angeles bicyclists and foodies on the Second Annual LACBC Bicycle Sundae: a two-wheel tour of exotic ice creams and cultural hip neighborhoods. The tour, which starts at Griffith Manor Park at 9 am, explores our city, and samples fine and unique ice creams, ranging from Persian to Indian and from Mexican to Italian. For more information, contact the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition at 213-629-2142.

Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman's Deli discussed about balsamic vinegar. His books, Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating, devotes an entire section to vinegars.

Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, the due that brought us the Ultimate series of cookbooks talk about their latest, The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book. In October, Mark and Bruce will teach two cooking classes at Let's Get Cookin' in Westlake Village. They also shared the following recipes, one for a drink that's bound to chill out your guests, and another that was inspired by fragrant walks through the market streets of China.

Peanut Butter Avalanche
Makes 2 drinks

  • 1 cup ice
  • 2/3 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup (2 ozs) vanilla-flavored liqueur, such as Cuarente y Tres (Licor 43)
  • 2 Tablespoons (1 oz ) vodka
  • 1/4 cup malted milk powder
  • 1/4 cup creamy standard peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup milk, preferably nonfat
Place the ingredients in the order listed in a blender; blend until smooth, making sure the ice cubes get thoroughly crushed up in the mix. Pour into 2 glasses and serve at once.

Hacked Chicken with a Szechwan Peanut Sauce
Makes 6 Servings

  • 1/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce, preferably reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons black vinegar, or 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon chili oil, or less to taste
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • One 3-lb chicken, giblets and neck removed and discarded
  • One 4-inch piece fresh peeled ginger, cut into 4 chunks
  • 6 scallions, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 star anise
  1. Whisk the peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar, chili oil, orange zest, and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Place the chicken, ginger, scallions, garlic, and star anise in a large saucepan or large pot. Cover the chicken with cold water to a depth of at least 2 inches. Place the pan over high heat, cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is almost falling off the bones, about 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, keep it covered, and let the pot stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the pot; discard all the aromatics. Remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Pull the meat off the bones and cut or shred it into uneven shards. Place the meat in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Mound the hacked chicken on a serving platter. Pour about half the sauce over the top and serve at once, passing the remaining sauce on the side for anyone who wants more.

Heidi Allison, created the Chili Pepper Diet and supervised an independent research study comparing the its effects to those of a conventional low-fat diet. A successful participant of the diet, she's maintained a 90-lb weight loss for over 10 years.

David Rosengarten is the editor-in-chief of the Rosengarten Report, a newsletter covering the most exciting, undiscovered food products, restaurants, wines and travel destinations in the world. The Report received the James Beard Award in 2003 as the best food and wine newsletter in the country. The Report's August issue, titled Gringo Revolt!!!, includes several sources for Mexican markets, restaurants, and online Mexican food sources.

Local chefs/restaurant owners Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Mart-n del Campo took David on a Los Angeles tour of Mexican markets. Their restaurant is Cenaduria La Casita Mexicana in the city of Bell, with specialties that include posole, chilaquiles, grilled cheese in banana leaves, fried cauliflower in guajillo sauce, and smoked pork chops with homemade adobo sauce.

David mentioned the following markets:

  • Jard-n Comunitario, 42nd and Alameda Streets, near Huntington Park
  • El Mercado del Este de Los Angeles (El Mercadito"), 3425 East 1st Street, just east of Lorena
    - For masa, International Deli
    - for gorditas, La Cocina
  • Alameda Swap Meet, near the town of Vernon
    - For Mexican candies, Dulcer-a Circo
    - For great meat tacos, El Amabile
  • Online Sources include and

  • Cookbook author Abby Dodge is a contributing editor at Fine Cooking magazine, where she served as founding director of the magazine's test kitchen. In addition, Abby regularly appears on TV and radio and in industry videos. She also teaches classes and seminars at cooking schools around the country. Her latest book is The Weekend Baker. Abby cautions that baking an apple pie takes some planning and time, about an hour for the baking alone. For express bakers, who need the great apple flavor of a pie in less than half the time, she suggests this crumble. For enhanced color and taste, she's added a few cranberries to the mix.

    Stove-top Apple Cranberry Crumble
    Makes 8 Servings

    Heating the crumble topping in a skillet by itself releases the natural earthy flavors of the granola. A drizzle of maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon are all that are needed before the topping is ready to sprinkle over the cooked apples and cranberries.

    For the filling:

    • 3 Tablespoons (1 - ounces/43 grams) unsalted butter. cut into 3 pieces
    • 2 lbs (907 grams) apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (Golden Delicious or any firm, medium tart apple)
    • - cup (2 - ozs / 71 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
    • - cup (4 ozs / 113 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • - tsp ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of table salt
    For the topping:
    • 3 Tablespoons (1 - ounces / 85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into three pieces
    • - tsp ground cinnamon, or more if needed
    • 2 cups crunchy, lightly sweetened granola
    • 3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
    1. To make the filling, put the butter in 10- to 11 inch (25 to 28cm) skillet with 2-inch (5 cm) high sides and set over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Toss until well blended. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, shaking the pan or gently stirring the contents wit ha wooden spoon, until the sugar is melted and the apples just begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Cover the skillet with a tight- fitting lid or a double layer of foil and reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer, shaking the pan often, until the apples are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 12 minutes longer.
    2. To make the topping, put the butter in a separate medium skillet and set over medium heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the - teaspoon cinnamon and add the granola. Cook, stirring constantly, until the granola is hot and evenly coated with the butter and cinnamon. Taste the granola and add more cinnamon if needed. Drizzle the maple syrup over the granola and cook, stirring, until hot and well blended, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm until the filling is ready.
    3. When the apples are tender, uncover the pan. If the apples have released more than a cup (8 fl ozs / 233 ml) of juice , increase the heat to high and boil briefly to reduce the liquid. Slide the skillet from the heat and scatter the topping over the filling.
    4. Serve the crisp straight from the skillet hot, warm, or at room temperature. Accompany with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

    Aileen Bordman is President of AFB Productions, an independent film company dedicated to bringing projects about art and food to life. She spoke with Evan about her film, Monet's Palate. The film's website is also an online destination for enthusiasts of art, fine food, gardening, travel and the many worlds of Claude Monet.