Hungry Hippos; Southern Staples; Batali's Shadow; Gold Grub; Family Meals; ChefsLine; Hungry Cyclist

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Laura Avery elbows out other shoppers to speak with Fitz Kelly of Fitzgerald's Premium Ripe Tree Fruit. He is offering sweet Flavorosa pluots, Robata apricots, and Flavorella plumcots. Fitz, known for wearing his pith helmet at the market, explains that the difference between pluots and plumcots is the percentage of plum flavor in the fruit. While plumcots are about 50% plum and 50% apricot, and pluots are about 75% plum.

Laura also speaks with Troy Regier of Dinuba Farms in the San Joaquin Valley about his super peaches. Troy says the peaches have a high sugar content right now and are especially delicious. He is offering Spring Crest, Sugar Crest and a white flesh variety called Sunlit Snow.

Jeff Holland, curator of mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo, reports that Otis and Maggie were treated to a feast prepared by seven area chefs in preparation for the 36th Annual Beastly Ball. The June 17th event features all the elements Zoo supporters have come to know and love -- fine fare, excellent entertainment, engaging animals. (Otis and Maggie are two lovely hippos who usually eat a diet largely made of grass hay, leaves and herbivore pellets, and sometimes they munch on apples and carrots.)

Robert St. John has drawn on his experience as a southern chef to write Deep South Staples: or How to Survive in a Southern Kitchen without a Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup. If you're intrigued by the recipes below, you might want to check out his website, which features recipes like Joan Holland's Almost Heaven Banana Pudding and Shiitake Shrimp over Fried Andouille Cheese Grits.

The World's Last Meatloaf from Deep South Staples Makes 8-10 servings

  • 2 lbs Ground beef
  • 1 Tablespoon bacon grease (or canola oil)
  • 1 cup onion, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup celery, minced
  • 3/4 cup bell pepper, minced
  • 1 tsp barlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp thyme, dry
  • 1/4 tsp oregano, dry
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, coarse
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp steak seasoning
  1. Preheat oven to 325--.
  2. Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Saut-- vegetables with salt and dry herbs until tender. Allow to cool.
  3. Combine milk, eggs, Worcestershire and ketchup and mix well. Place ground beef, cooled vegetables and egg mixture into a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, squish the meatloaf until you have mixed everything together and all is well incorporated. Fold in the bread crumbs last.
  4. Shape the meat mixture into the form of a loaf on a baking sheet. Using your hand, make an indentation down the center of the loaf (This is where the glaze goes). Bake 50 minutes.
  5. While meatloaf is cooking make the glaze. Remove from the oven and spoon glaze down the center of the meatloaf and spread over the sides. Return meatloaf to oven, lower heat to 300-- and bake 30 minutes more. Allow meatloaf to rest 15 minutes before serving.

Robert St. John's Mushroom B--chamel Sauce
Makes 2 Quarts

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, light
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup celery, minced
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 10 ozs (4 cups) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp garlic, granulated
  • 1/2 tsp thyme, dry
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  1. Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Add onions, shallots, celery, and salt. Cook vegetables until tender. Add mushrooms and increase heat to medium. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add chicken broth, garlic, and thyme. Return to a simmer and cook 10 more minutes.
  3. In a separate skillet, make a light blond roux by melting butter and stirring in the flour.
  4. Add to simmering broth mixture. Cook 3 - 4 minutes and add cream.
  5. Freezes well.

Robert St. John's Ultimate Green Bean Casserole
Makes 6 to 8 Servings

  • 1 qt chicken broth
  • 4 14.5-oz cans green beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup bacon, diced
  • 1 cup onion, medium dice
  • 2 tsps caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups mushroom b--chamel sauce
  • 4-oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 6-oz can French's Fried Onions
  1. Preheat oven to 350--.
  2. In a large saucepot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add green beans and simmer 10 minutes. Drain the green beans.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, render bacon until it just becomes crisp. Drain excess bacon grease from the skillet and add the diced onions. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in caraway seeds, salt, pepper, and mushroom b--chamel sauce. Remove mixture from the heat and add green beans, water chestnuts, cheese, and 1/2 of the canned, fried onions.
  5. Place the mixture in a 3-quart baking dish and bake 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and sprinkle remaining fried onions over the top of the casserole and return to the oven for an additional 12 - 14 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving

Bill Buford, author of Heat : An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, shares what it's like to have Mario Batali over for dinner, what's it's like to be the kitchen bitch in Batali's Babbo kitchen, and what he learned in the process.

Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly rates O-Dae San ---the grandest fish restaurant in Koreatown,--- a place where he nearly died, the sushi was so good. O-Dae San (213-383-9800) is at 2889 W. Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. Dinner for two (food only) runs about $30---$80, considerably more with special sushi. Jonathan recommends al bap; hwe do bap; octopus bokkum.

Journalist Miriam Weinstein, author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals, says several studies support her belief that meals have greater value than their simple health benefits. She affirms that regular family meals have been connected to lower drug use among teenagers, improved language development of children, and reduced symptoms of other health-related issues. (Eating in the car does not count.) During family meals children learn how to tell stories, how to sit still, what's important to their families, what is acceptable to eat, and about their place in the world.

Jennifer Beiser says that if you've ever been stuck in the kitchen and confused about your recipe or trying to plan a party and need some professional help, you may benefit from the new online service ChefsLine. It's a place where members can schedule meetings with chefs to talk them down from the kitchen ledge. Visit the website to learn more about ChefsLine's offer of free membership through July.

The Hungry Cyclist is celebrating his 366th day on the road. Tom Kevill Davies, who began his cycling journey a year ago in New York City after a quick flight from his home in England, is beginning his new year of bicycling in Oaxaca, Mexico. He hopes to end his journey in Rio de Janiero. Tom's spent the last few nights in a convent, police station, gas station, and on the roadside sampling five of Oaxaca's famous seven moles. He is also sampling gourmet insects like gusanos, or grubs, and loving the delicious fruits and fruit juices of Mexico.