Dining in the Dark; Smelly Fruit; Vital Fluids; Bittman's Brigade; Kaiseki Dinner; French Fixin's

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Laura Avery spoke with Peacock Farms about their Ron de Nice squash. They also have eight different types of eggplant including the Japanese ichiban. The Rosa Bianca variety is light and fluffy and works well in eggplant parmesan since it doesn't soak up as much oil as other varieties.

Laura also spoke with David Karp about Arctic Queen white flesh nectarines.

Mark it on your calendar: July 20 is "Melon Mania" at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market (2nd and Arizona). There will be several varieties to sample.

Opaque presentsDining in the Dark, a whole new experience in dining. Although their July 23 event is sold-out, there's still room at the July 30 and August 6 events at the Hyatt West Hollywood (8401 Sunset Blvd). A portion of the proceeds from these three events will benefit the Braille Institute of America. Tickets are $99 (no-host bar); for more info, call 800-710-1270 or go online.

Josh Karpf introduced us to the notoriously smelly Durian fruit which can be found in many Thai markets.

Tom Standage, author of A History of the World in Six Glasses, discussed the influence of drink in many of the world-s cultures.

Mark Bittman, whose newest book is How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes on America's Chefs, shared the following recipes with us: Skate with Brown Butter and Honey
Makes 4 servings

  • Flour for dredging
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (12-ounce) skinless skate wing fillets
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained, or to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
  1. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat. While it is heating, put the flour on a plate and season it with salt and pepper. Put the oil in the skillet- it should coat the bottom well-and turn the heat to high. When the oil shimmers, dredge the skate lightly in the flour, shaking to remove the excess, and add it to the pan. (You may have to cook in batches; if so, keep the skate warm in a low oven while preparing the sauce.)
  2. Cook until the skate is nicely browned on the first side, about 5 minutes, then turn (use 2 spatulas if necessary to keep the skate from breaking). Cook on the second side, adjusting the heat so the fish does not burn, until it is firm to the touch, another 2 minutes or so. Reduce the heat to medium and transfer the skate to a warm platter.
  3. Add the butter and honey to the pan and cook until bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the capers and swirl them around, then pour the butter over the fish. Immediately add the vinegar to the pan that the butter was in, swirl it around, and pour it over the fish. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Apple Confit Makes 10 servings or more
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 oranges
  • 15 Granny Smith apples
  1. Melt 2 cup of sugar in a saut- pan over medium heat, stirring only occasionally, until it bubbles and turns golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately pour it into a standard 9 x 5 loaf pan. Swirl it around so that it coats the bottom, then set it aside.
  2. Use a zester to remove the zest from the oranges, then put the zest in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, cook 1 minute, drain the refresh under cold running water for a minute or 2. Drain again.
  3. Peel the apples, then halve and core them. Cut them by hand or with a mandoline into slices about 1/8 inch thick. Using only flat pieces (discard or eat the rounded ends), place a single layer of apples neatly in the bottom of the loaf pan. Cover with another layer, keeping the layers as level as possible. Sprinkle with a bit of the remaining 1 cup sugar, the some of the zest. Repeat, adding and sugar and zest every 2 or 3 layers.
  4. When you get to the top of the pan, keep the lines straight and continue to build layers beyond the top, going about 3 or 4 inches above the pan. Cover the top with plastic, then wrap the whole pan in aluminum foil. Place it in a shallow tray, the apples will -weep- liquid-and refrigerate at least overnight, preferably for 24 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain the juice from the tray and unwrap the pan. Drain the excess liquid from the pan, then wrap it in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the pan in a large, deep roasting pan, and fill the roasting pan with water halfway up its sides.
  6. Bake for 5 hours, then check the confit. It is done when all the apple slices are dark brown, it has shrunk to fill only about three-quarters of the mold, and a thin-bladed knife pierces it easily. Cooking time is usually between 5 and 6 1/2 hours. Unwrap, cool, and chill for several hours or up to 2 days. Slice thinly and serve.

Jonathan Gold describes Umenohana (310-860-9236) at 433 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills as -the first major tofu kaiseki house in the United States, a luxurious fortress of bean curd in all of its sundry forms. There is tofu salad and grilled tofu steak, tofu made from sesame and an unbelievably delicious tofu made from fresh milk, freeze-dried tofu and tofu made to order, tofu -ice cream,- tofu cookies and tofu cr-me brul-e.- Their Kaiseki menus run from $38-$74.

Susan Hermann Loomis, author of several cookbooks, has written Cooking at Home: On Rue Tatin, published by William Morrow. She shared the following recipe with us: Syrian Chicken with Tahini, Lemon, and Yogurt Sauce
Makes 4 Servings

  • One 3 1/2 - 4 pound free-range and/or organic chicken
  • 2 large onions, cut into quarters
  • 4 garlic cloves, green germ removed if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 10 black peppercorns, preferably Vietnamese or Tellicherry, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (to 6 cups)
For the yogurt sauce:
  • 2 cups plain full fat yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 garlic cloves, green germ removed if necessary, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Scant 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, finely crushed
  • For the garnish:
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 10 fresh peppermint leaves
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Place the chicken, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin seeds in a stockpot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium so the water is simmering merrily and cook until the chicken is tender but not falling from the bone, about 1 hour. Remove the pot from the heat and removed the chicken from the broth. Let the chicken cool slightly. Set the broth aside.
    3. While the chicken is cooking, toast the bread: Place the cubes of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven, turning them regularly, until they are golden on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
    4. To make the sauce, in a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the remaining ingredients. Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice and cumin, and set aside at room temperature.
    5. Toast the pine nuts: Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly so they don-t burn, until they are golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate so they won-t continue to cook.
    6. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Remove the meat from the bones and cut it into bite sized pieces. Strain the broth, discarding the vegetables. Place the meat in a medium saucepan, with about 3/4 cup of the chicken broth to keep it moist, and set over low heat to keep hot.
    7. Immediately before serving mince the parsley and mint leaves together.
    8. To serve, place the chicken in an attractive shallow serving platter or serving dish. Top with a layer of the toasted bread cubes, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the warm broth. Pour the yogurt sauce over the bread, sprinkle with the minced herbs and toasted pine nuts and serve immediately.
    Note: The chicken is cooked through but not so long it falls from the bone, so the meat still has robust flavor. The resulting broth will be a light chicken broth. Use what you need here, then keep the rest to use in any recipe calling for chicken broth. The recipe calls for yogurt sauce to be poured over all, but you may prefer to serve it alongside.