Effortless Gourmet Meals, the Botany of Desire and Rice

Hosted by
Michael Pollan, a writer and the author of The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, will be speaking at the downtown LA Public Library on October 29 at 7:30pm; October 30 Hilton Costa Mesa. Call 888-864-8225 for reservations. For information, go to http://www.urel.berkeley.edu/socal.

Roy Hamilton is the curator of The Art of Rice: Spirit and Sustenance in Asia which runs at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History on the campus of UCLA from October 5, 2003 to April 25, 2004

Carol Cotner Thompson is a teacher at the New School of Cooking. She will be teaching classes called The Effortless Gourmet soon. Call 310-842-9702 or go to the school's website.

Roasted Corn, Tomato and Bean Salad
The Effortless Gourmet
Serves 2

  • 1/2 lbs fresh summer beans, stem side off, beans left whole
  • 2 ears corn, grilled or steamed
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • leaves from 1 sprig tarragon, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
Blanch and shock the beans and set aside. Roast or steam corn, remove kernels and set aside. Combine shallots, tarragon, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar to make vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, beans, corn and enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the vegetables.

Oven-Braised Tarragon Chicken
The Effortless Gourmet
Serves 2 - 4

  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 1 whole chicken, cut-up or 5 individual pieces of your choice
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 can whole, peeled imported tomatoes, no juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, skin-side down first. To crowding the pan, you may have to do it in two batches.

Meanwhile, trim green stem from leek, slice in half lengthwise and cut each half into 1/16-inch slices. Wash thoroughly and dry.

Once chicken is browned, remove to a plate. Add leeks and saute until limp. Add wine and reduce slightly. Add tomatoes, tarragon and stock. Put chicken back in skillet, skin side up.

Put skillet in oven and braise for 30-45 minutes. No need to turn chicken pieces in sauce. Allow the skin to remain crispy. Adjust seasonings.

Fresh Plum Crumble with Creme Fraiche Whipped Cream
The Effortless Gourmet
Serves 8


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 1/2 lbs plums, cut into quarters
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter. Add brown sugar and a split vanilla bean. Toss mixture with fruit and leave in bean. Sprinkle in two tablespoons flour. Combine and place in a buttered, 9x13 ovenproof casserole.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 8 oz butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup oats
Combine the flour, sugars, salt and zest in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. Add oats and pulse just to combine. Place the crisp topping over the fruit. Bake about 55 minutes to 1 hour until fruit is visibly bubbling through the topping. Serve warm with creme fraiche whipped cream.

Creme Fraiche Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
Fold together ingredients and chill until ready to use.

Emily Luchetti is the author of A Passion for Desserts, published by Chronicle Books.

Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake with Cranberry Pecan Topping
Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 8 ozs (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 4 ozs (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 14 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.

Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together, then remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before serving.

Apple-Olive Oil Cake
Makes about 10 servings

  • 4 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 9 tablespoons DeVero or other good-quality olive oil
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Grated peel from 3 lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups store-bought apple butter
  • Cinnamon Cream (recipe to follow)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan and coat it with the bread crumbs.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and lemon peel. Stir in the apple butter. Stir in the dry ingredients until smooth.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let the cake cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Place a large plate over the pan and invert plate and pan together. Lift the pan off the cake. Let cake cool completely before slicing. Slice thinly and serve with the cinnamon cream.

Cinnamon Cream
Makes 2 1/2 cups

  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Makes about 24 3-inch cookies

Cookie Dough:

  • 3 large hard-boiled egg yolks
  • 6 ozs (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • Grated peel from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
Fig Filling:
  • 8 ozs (1 1/2 cups) dried figs
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup water
To make the cookie dough: Place the egg yolks, butter, lemon peel, vanilla and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the flour and salt and again process until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to overnight.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Cut the figs into quarters, discarding the stems. Put the figs, orange juice, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer until the figs are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain the figs, discarding the liquid. Let cool to room temperature, and puree the figs in a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll half of the dough (keep the remaining dough refrigerated) into a rectangle 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. Place 1 teaspoon of the fig puree along one end of a square. Pick up the edge of the dough with a metal spatula and roll the dough around the filling. Place the roll, seam-side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Roll the rest of the cookies in the same manner. Scraps of dough can be re-rolled. The dough gets soft quickly. If the dough gets difficult to roll, refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake the figamaroles until golden brown, about 12 minutes.