Florence; Culinary Camp; Peeps; Condor Eggs; Corn; Little Saigon

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The Art of Pairing Wine with Food
Epicurean and entrepreneur C. Scott Hindell and renowned restaurateur and chef Octavio Becerra teach the art of making sublime harmonies of wine and food. Students learn about base and bridge ingredients in food, along with the flavors and aromas of wine. The course includes wine and food at each class meeting, prepared and selected by the instructors, and culminates in a fine wine and dining experience at an exclusive Los Angeles restaurant. The 6-week hands-on course meets Thursday evenings, April 20-May 25, at 1010 Westwood Blvd. in Westwood Village. Fee: $585. Students must be at least 21 years of age. For more information call (310) 206-7509 or visit UCLA Extension for complete course descriptions and online enrollment.

Passover Menu at La Cachette
In addition to the regular menu, La Cachette will serve a Passover menu (see menu online) on Wed, April 12 and Thurs, April 13 from 6-9:30pm. $55 per person (food only). Diners should request this menu when reserving. The menu is also available to-go if order is called in by 10am the day before you are serving the dinner. Call 310-470-4992.

Laura Avery talks to McGrath Farms about their flowering broccoli. She also discovers rhubarb at Trevino Farms of Lompoc.

Judy Witts teaches cooking classes in Florence, Italy, at the Mercato Centrale. Students visit the market to discover the freshest ingredients and then take the loot back to Judy's kitchen to learn to prepare it. She's married to a native Florentine, Andrea Francini, whose knowledge of Florence provides Judy with valuable insights. She has a free online newsletter called Over the Tuscan Stove.

Ribollita (Tuscan Vegetable and Bread Soup)
This dish is a perfect example of Tuscany's fame for giving new life to leftovers. An icon of Tuscan cuisine, ribollita literally means ---reboiled." It's difficult to find an authentic ribollita because it takes 3 days to prepare. Minestrone is made the first day and eaten as is. The second day the leftover soup is layered with thin slices of bread (or toasted bread rubbed with garlic) and baked with thin slices of red onion on top. The third day the leftovers are reboiled.

Recipes for minestrone vary from region to region, restaurant to restaurant, and household to household. While most recipes are based on regional produce, the most important ingredient is cavolo nero, a winter black cabbage whose leaves range in color from dark green to almost black. Once grown only in Tuscany, enterprising farmers in California's Salinas Valley are now growing it along with Royal Rose radicchio. If you cannot find black cabbage, substitute kale, chard, or use only Savoy cabbage.

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, white part only, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced into 1/2" rounds
  • 4 zucchini, sliced into 1/2" rounds
  • One-quarter whole Savoy cabbage, shredded and chopped
  • 1 bunch cavolo nero or kale
  • 1 small bunch spinach, shredded and chopped
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups Tuscan white beans, 1/2 cup pureed and 1/2 cup whole
  • 2 Tablespoons coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 lb stale Italian bread, sliced
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and saut-- the onion and leek together over low heat until they begin to burn slightly. Add the garlic and saut-- for 1 minute. Add all the remaining vegetables. Season with sea salt and stir to mix in the onions and leeks evenly. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables have reduced in volume by half. Stir again and cover with water to the top of the pot. The more water you add, the more broth you will have with the soup. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Add the tomato paste and stir to dissolve. Cover and cook the soup for 1 hour. Add the Tuscan beans. This is the minestrone soup.
  2. The next day layer the soup in a deep baking dish with the stale bread and bake. Top with thinly sliced red onions before baking.
  3. The next day, if there's any soup left over, reboil the soup, stirring well to break up the bread slices. The soup should be thick enough to eat with a fork! It's served with the traditional drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top.

Colzi's Ribollita
Step 1: Zuppa di Verdura

  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 lb cooked white beans and the cooking water
  • 1 cabbage (in season), sliced and chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small bunch of basil, leaves torn
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • Oregano
  • Pepper or chili pepper
  • Coarse ground sea salt
  • Olive oil
    1. Saut-- onion in olive oil for 20 minutes until cooked. Add a ladle of the cooking water from the beans and let stew. Add the cabbage, celery, parsley, carrot, and basil to this mixture.
    2. Cook for 20 minutes, covered. Add the beans, half pureed, the rest whole and the liquid. Stir. Add tomato paste, oregano, and season to taste with salt and pepper or chili pepper.
    3. Add water and cook for 90 minutes. This is not meant to be thick soup, as later it will be thickened with the bread.
    Step Two: Let the soup rest at least a day. Layer the soup with thin slices of day old bread. Heat while stirring until the bread breaks apart and becomes a cream. Add more water or bean broth if you have it. When the soup is done, turn off the heat and stir in some olive oil. Taste for salt. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil on top.

    Melanzane Grigliate (Benita's Grilled Egglant)
    The secret to a fabulous flavor is the vinaigrette. Hot and cold attract, so while the eggplant is hot, the cold vinaigrette soaks in, giving the eggplant a fresh flavor instead of soaking up just oil! For a nice variation, use mint instead of oregano! Judy always prepares enough to keep in the fridge for sandwiches, antipasti, or snacking. She also likes to layer the eggplant with thin slices of garlic and then cover with extra virgin olive oil.

    • 1 or 2 large eggplants
    • Garlic
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Red wine vinegar
    • Chili pepper flakes
    • Oregano
    • Salt
    1. Slice the eggplant widthwise into 1/2-inch slices. (If your eggplants tend to be bitter, you can layer them in a colander spinkled with sea salt or Kosher salt, put a plate on top and weigh them down for about an hour, until the bitter waters are drawn out. Rinse and pat dry.)
    2. Prepare a Sicilian vinegrette. Mix 1/4-cup of good red wine vinegar with 1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil, some minced garlic, oregano, and salt.
    3. Grill the eggplant on a stove-top grill, barbecue, or saut-- in a non-stick skillet using extra virgin olive oil as needed.
    4. When the eggplant is cooked, remove from the grill and immediately place in the vinegrette. Turn to dip both sides and place in a serving dish.
    5. Once cooked, you can serve the eggplant with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top.
    Note: When chilis are in season, Benita always uses fresh chili pepper slices on top for an extra kick!

    Barry Vigon, Summer Camp Director of Pali Adventures. The camp's Culinary Program for children gives kids a culinary kit and teaches them to to work in a kitchen with a five-star restaurant chef.

    Christine Moore, owner of Little Flower Company says America has a fascination with Peeps and offers the following recipe so that you can make your own fluffy marshmellow treats at home.

    Makes approximately 40 marshmallows

    • 2 1/2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin
    • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 cup light corn syrup
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
    • Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)
    1. Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Let it stand 30 minutes.
    2. Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.
    3. Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high. Cook syrup with stirring until it reaches 244-- (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from heat.
    4. With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase speed to high. Beat until mixture is very thick and white, and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla, beating to incorporate.
    5. Generously dust an 8" x 12" glass baking pan with confectioners' sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan. Dust with confectioners' sugar; let stand overnight, uncovered, to dry out.
    Note: Add a few drops of food coloring for colorful seasonal treats.

    Susie Kasielke, Curator of Birds at the Los Angeles Zoo, tells us how we can save a real condor by enjoying a chocolate one! Celebrate spring and the arrival of the zoo's condor chicks by purchasing a chocolate condor egg--complete with a cute chocolate condor chick inside. The foil-wrapped egg, which comes in box and is accompanied by "care and feeding" instructions, makes a great gift. The chocolaty eggs support GLAZA's California Condor Recovery Program, which has helped conservation efforts swell the condors' population to 275 from fewer than 25 just two decades ago.

    Writer and professor Michael Pollan, who had never hunted before--let alone killed anything, found himself one day hunting wild boar and enjoying it. He recounts what led him to that place in the woods in his latest book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, which takes readers on a "tour of the food chain" in order to answer the perennial question, 'What's for dinner?' You can read more about Pollan's experience hunting wild boar in Northern California in this recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine.

    Ann Le's The Little Saigon Cookbook, takes readers inside some of the 200 local restaurants of this 3 square-mile neighborhood in the City of Westminster (Orange County, California). Ann spoke about Trieu Chau (714-775-1536) at 4401 W 1st Street in Santa Ana. She recommended Hu Tieu, a pork noodle soup.

    With Passover quickly approaching, Evan Kleiman offers some great ideas for menus at home.

    Haroset all'Italiana (Italian Haroset)
    All over the world Jews prepare the ritual food of haroset (also charoset or charoses) in different ways. The dish's sticky denseness, which symbolizes the mortar which ancient Jews used to build the pyramids in Egypt, is traditionally a combination of nuts and fruits, apples in Eastern Europe, and often dried fruits in the rest of the world. In this recipe whole oranges are added, including the peel to cut the sweetness of the dates and other dried fruits. The red wine is thought to symbolize the Red Sea which parted so that the Jews could cross.

    • 1 lb pitted dates
    • 2 oranges
    • 1/2 lb raisins
    • 1/2 lb figs
    • 1 cup red wine
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1/2 - 1 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds, chopped
    Check dates to be sure there are no pits. Trim the stem end of the oranges and cut them in quarters. Pass all ingredients through the meat grinder attachment of your mixer. Place ground fruit in bowl. Add wine and cinnamon and mix thoroughly. Mix in pine nuts or almonds or use for garnish.

    Pesce in Carpione (Marinated White Fish w/Pine Nuts and Raisins)
    Serves 4

    • 2 lbs Whitefish fillet, skin on
    • Flour for dredging
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • Vegetable oil for pan frying
    • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
    • Small handful of coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
    • 1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
    • 1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
    • Grated zest of 1 lemon
    • 1 head radicchio or butter lettuce
    • 1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
    1. Remove the pin bones from the fish using tweezers, pliers or your fingers. Cut the fish fillet crosswise into pieces about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until hot but not smoking. Lightly dust the fish with the seasoned flour, add to the pan, and fry until golden. Carefully remove the fish from the skillet and arrange it in a nonreactive baking pan of stainless, glass, or enamel.
    2. In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil and saut-- the onions until very tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the onions, chopped parsley, and the raisins, if desired over the fish.
    3. To make the marinade, in a small bowl whisk together the remaining 1 cup of olive oil, vinegar, mustard, shallot, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the fish and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
    4. Separate the radicchio or butter lettuce head into individual leaves, and arrange on serving plates. Lift the fish, topped with the onion mixture, out of the marinade and arrange on the lettuce leaves. Garnish with pine nuts.