Fast Food; Skirt Steak; Kona Coffee; Woks; Classic and Healthy Desserts

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Legendary French Chef Jacques Pepin teaches us about fast food--his way. Mark Bittman returns with an easy, delicious way to prepare skirt steak. The restaurant critic for Los Angeles Magazine, Patrick Kuh, celebrates the return of classic desserts. The best coffee comes from Kona. Anita Harrington of Aloha Island Coffee gives us a taste of her beans. The wok has shaped Chinese cuisine--author Grace Young recounts some history, lore and recipes surrounding this centuries-old tool. Carl Chu takes us to San Gabriel for "healthy desserts" using Chinese medicinal herbs as ingredients.

Here are some recipes and information from today's Good Food:

Soup au Pistou
Serves 6 to 8
Total cook time: 1 hour

  • 2 cups dried white or flageolet beans, soaked overnight (then discard water)

  • 10 cups water

  • 2 leeks, chopped into quarter pieces

  • 2 carrots, chopped into quarter pieces

  • 2 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped

  • 2 zucchini, cubed

  • 3 potatoes, cubed

  • 15 green beans, cut into small pieces

  • 3 tomatoes (or 6 canned), peeled, seeded, and chopped

  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: Pistou

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 3-4 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Press the garlic, then whisk the tomato paste, basil, cheese, oil, and parsley with it in a blender til it is a rich paste. In a large soup pot, bring the soaked beans and fresh water to a boil. Add all the vegetables and herbs, bring to a second boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for an hour. Meanwhile, make the pistou if you don't have any handy in the freezer. Add the salt and pepper to the soup, stir well, and continue simmering uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into big bowls. Pass the pistou--and extra Parmesan cheese.

Carl Chu is author of Chinese Food Finder: Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. There are also Chinese Food Finder: New York and Bay Area and San Francisco, published by Crossbridge. Carl spoke about Hui Lau Shan or "Healthy Desserts" at 250 W Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel. This is a Hong Kong-based restaurant features Chinese medicinal herbs as ingredients. Desserts featuring harsmar (frog ovaries and frog fat) and sago (starch that comes from a palm tree.) Desserts are served hot or cold--it's up to you. Cold is usually a blended drink There are also dessert soups.

Jacques Pepin is the author most recently of Fast Food My Way, published by Houghton Mifflin.

From Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin.

Silky Tomato Soup with Spinach Coulis
4 servings


  • 3 lbs ripe tomatoes

  • 1 sweet onion (about 4 ozs) such as Vidalia, cut into 1 inch pieces

  • 2 large garlic cloves

  • 1/4 jalapeno peppers (or less, depending on your tolerance) seeded and cut into 1/2 pieces

  • 3/4 tsp salt

  • 2 Tablespoons good olive oil

  • 1/4 tsp (or less, if desired) Tabasco sauce

Spinach coulis:

  • About 3 cups (loosely packed) spinach leaves

  • 1/4 cup oil (a mixture of canola and olive oil)

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1/4 cup water

To make the soup, cut the tomatoes into 2- to 3-inch chunks. Finely puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, salt and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Push the puree through a food mill fitted with the fine screen, then add enough Tabasco to the soup to suit your taste. (You should have about 6 cups of soup.) Refrigerate until cool.

To make the spinach coulis, pick out and discard any damaged leaves and seal the leaves in a plastic bag. Place the bag in a microwave oven and microwave the spinach on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a blender. Add the oil, salt, and water and process for about 1 minute, stopping the machine once or twice to push any pieces of spinach clinging to the sides down into the mixture. When it's smooth, transfer the spinach puree to a bottle or jar, cover tightly and refrigerate.

To serve, ladle out about 1 1/2 cups soup per person. Garnish each bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons of spinach coulis.

Zucchini and Tomato Salad
4 servings

  • 2 small, firm zucchini (each about 5 ounces)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 cups diced (1/4-inch) tomatoes

  • 2/3 cup diced (1/2-inch) mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo mozzerella

  • About 1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves

  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Using a vegetable peeler, cut down the length of each zucchini to remove long, thin strips. Stop when you reach the seeds in the center, pivot the zucchini, and repeat on the other 3 sides. Discard the seedy centers and put the zucchini strips in a non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of the salt, mix well, and set aside until serving time.

In another bowl, mix together the tomatoes, mozzerella, cilantro, lemon juice, oil, the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and the pepper.

At serving time, arrange the zucchini strips on four plates to create a border around the edge. Spoon some of the tomato salad into the center of each plate and serve immediately.

Oven-baked Salmon with Sun-Dried Tomato and Salsa Mayonnaise
About 12 servings

This is the essence of fast food. Season a fillet of salmon and bake it right on the serving platter in a very low oven. Don't worry about burning the platter, it won't be damaged by the low heat of the oven, and the fish will be perfectly cooked.

  • 1 tsp canola oil

  • 1 large skinless and boneless salmon fillet (about 3 lbs)

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • About 1 cup combined bread crumbs and ground hazelnuts (from 1 slice bread and 1/4 cup hazelnuts processed in a food processor)

Salsa Mayonnaise

  • 4 ozs sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (about 3/4 cup)

  • 3/4 cup fresh store bought salsa

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 2 cups mayonnaise

  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (A mixture of parsley, tarragon, chives and chervil)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Oil a platter with the oil. Arrange the salmon on the platter and sprinkle it with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Turn the salmon over and sprinkle it with the remaining 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Sprinkle with the hazelnut-crumb mixture on top of the fillet. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the salmon is barely cooked. (I like it slightly rare inside.)

Meanwhile make the mayonnaise by putting the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil in a food processor with the salsa. Process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in the salt, mayonnaise and chives.

When the salmon is done, remove it from the oven and sprinkle the chopped herbs on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with the mayonnaise.

Chocolate-Raspberry Gratin
4 servings

  • 2 cups IQF (individually quick frozen) unsweetened raspberries (about 8 ozs)

  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled chocolate chip cookies (4 to 6 cookies)

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Divide the frozen berries among four small (1 cup) gratin dishes or custard cups.

Toss the crumbled cookies and sugar together in a small bowl. Divide the crumbs among the gratin dishes, sprinkling them evenly over the berries, and dot with the butter. Arrange the dishes on a cookie sheet and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until nicely browned on top and the berries are bubbling. Let cool to lukewarm or room temperature, and serve with sour cream, if you like.

Vanilla Praline Dessert
Serves 4
This delicious dessert is made in moments with ready-made products from the supermarket. Buy good ice cream, and make sure you move it from the freezer to the refrigerator at least one hour before serving. There are hundreds of cookies available at the market. I selected Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux butter cookies, but any variety you fancy will work.

  • 1 pint good vanilla ice cream

  • About 1/2 cup Nutella hazelnut spread

  • 8 small cookies broken into pieces

  • 2 Tablespoons pistachio nuts

Move the ice cream from the freezer to the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to soften.

At serving time, place the Nutella in a microwave oven and heat for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the spread is soft and pourable. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the softened vanilla ice cream into four dessert bowls. Cover with the broken cookies, dividing the pieces among the servings, then pout about 2 tablespoons of the hazelnut spread on top. Spoon another 1/4 cup ice cream over the spread in each dish and sprinkle the pistachio nuts on top. Serve immediately.

Patrick Kuh is the restaurant critic for Los Angeles Magazine. He spoke about the rebirth of classic desserts. Featured restaurants:

Floating Island dessert -- meringue with cr--me anglais

Mimosa Restaurant: (323) 655-8895 8009 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles

Cannoli -- traditional Italian dessert with ricotta and dried orange peel in a crunchy shell

Vincenti Ristorante: (310) 207-0127 11930 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles

Clafoutis -- cherry dessert baked in a custard

The Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel Restaurant: (626) 568-3900 1401 S Oak Knoll Ave, Pasadena

Mark Bittman is the author of How to Cook Everything, published by MacMillan and other books under the "Minimalist" title. He is also the author of the "Minimalist" column in the New York Times Dining section.

Evan mentioned El Gaucho Meat Market (310-297-2617) at 2715 Manhattan Beach Boulevard in Redondo Beach. You can buy raw meat marinated in the Argentine way.

Fleica: Grilled Steak with Garlic
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: about 30 minutes, largely unattended

  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, peeled

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt, or more to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 2 lbs skirt steak, or use flank, strip steaks or ribeye steaks

  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves, optional

If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the lemon juice and salt until a paste is formed. Otherwise, mince the garlic finely and stir it with the salt into the lemon juice. Use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the garlic as much as you can. Press the pepper into the steaks and then spread the garlic mixture evenly on both sides. Let the steaks sit while you preheat the grill or broiler.

Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill or broiler; the fire should be moderately hot and the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. When you're ready to cook, brush a little of the melted butter onto the steaks and then place on the grill. Brush once or twice more with any remaining butter while the steaks are cooking, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

Anita and Jim Harrington run Aloha Island Coffee. You can find their products online or at their retail location (153 S Beverly Dr; 310-786-8257) in Beverly Hills.

Grace Young is the author of Breath of a Wok.

Lian Nian Xiu's Moon Hill Corn and Beans
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 Tablespoon minced ginger

  • 1 Tablespoon minced mild fresh chiles

  • 3 medium ears corn, kernels scraped off (about 2 1/2 cups)

  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped green beans

  • 3/4 tsp salt

  • 1 ripe medium tomato, cut into thin wedges

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the oil and add the garlic, ginger, chiles and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the corn, green beans, and salt and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the tomato wedges and stir-fry 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons cold water and the sugar and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes more or until the tomatoes are just wilted and the vegetables are tender.