Scallops; Lil Saigon; Darkest Peru; Goose Creek Tomatoes; Cops & Donuts; Chef Goin; State Wine of CA

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Laura Avery finds Sherry Yard, Executive Pastry Chef of Spago, at the market looking for inspiration. Sherry is planning a spectacular dessert for an Oscar's Tasting Event where she will let the fragrant passion fruit be the star. Check out Sherry's award-winning book, The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts. Her Desserts by the Yard is due out next year. Also, check out the Wolfgang Puck website, for some fabulous recipes.

Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World shared his knowledge about cooking with scallops, which he breaks down into three categories. Sea scallops:

  • harvested year-round in the North Atlantic
  • taste ranges from mild to quite briny
  • size ranges to several ounces, though most weigh approximately -- oz
  • best cooked so their interiors remain creamy
Bay scallops
  • caught in the winter months in a small area between Long Island and Cape Cod
  • most expensive scallops (if you're not paying at least $12/lb-- probably more--they're not real bay scallops)
  • farm-raised version from China is much less expensive but nowhere near as good
  • cork-shaped and about the size of pretzel nuggets
  • slightly darker in color than other scallops
Calico scallops
  • little scallops that sell for $4/lb in supermarkets
  • found in warmer waters, off the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Central and South America
  • shucked by blasting the shells with a hit of steam, which semi-cooks them and further contributes to their tendency to overcook
  • $200-300/lb, although larger ones are also harvested (and are passed off as Bays)
Mark says you can special order scallops online through Nantucket Bay Scallops, or call Captain Blair Perkins at 508-228-7037 to place an order.

Bay Scallops With Sesame Seeds and Scallions
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

  • 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water
  • 1/2 cup trimmed and chopped scallions
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, plus a little more for garnish
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Put sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Place a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron pan over medium heat. Add scallops and cook for about 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and move to side of pan.
  3. Turn heat to medium-low and add butter and wine or water. Cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, until incorporated and saucy. Add scallions and cook another 30 seconds or so, combining them with scallops, then stir in soy sauce. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with sesame seeds and a few more drops of soy sauce, and serve with lemon wedges.
Roasted Sea Scallops
Yield: 4 Servings
Time: 30 minutes
Sea scallops are absolutely essential for this dish; even bay scallops are likely to overcook.
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled if you have time, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb sea scallops
  1. Preheat the oven to 450--F. Mix together all ingredients except the scallops and garnish in a baking dish just large enough to hold the scallops in one layer.
  2. Bake until the juices begin to bubble, about 10 minutes. Mix in the scallops, return to the oven, and bake just until the scallops are opaque about half way through, about 10 minutes more, depending on their size. Garnish and serve.

Ann Le, whose The Little Saigon Cookbook: Vietnamese Cuisine and Culture in Southern California's Little Saigon, traces her family's journeym from Vietnam to Westminster, California. Little Saigon, just southwest of Disneyland, covers about three square miles in the City of Westminster. Of the city's 90,000 residents, about 43% are white, 38% Asian and 20% Hispanic. Home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam, the neighborhood has some 200 restaurants.

If you want to try Vietnamese cuisine, Ann suggests the deli-style places in the Asian Garden Mall for home-style dishes like Chicken Braised in Coconut Juice, Pho, and Spring Rolls. For a more family-style setting she suggests Cali Restaurant (15691 Brookhurst in Westminster; (714-531-5142) or Miranda Restaurant (9102 Edinger Ave; 714-842-7892) in nearby Fountain Valley.

Steamed Tilapia with Ginger and Onions (Ca Hap Gung Hanh)
Yield: 4 servings

  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce, divided use
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce, divided use
  • 1 fresh Thai bird chili, finely chopped (see cook's notes)
  • 1 medium-size piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch long), peeled, cut into the size of matchsticks
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground black pepper, divided use
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar, divided use
  • 7 Tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 lb whole tilapia or other white-fleshed fish such as striped bass, cleaned
  • 5 green onions, divided use
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced, divided use
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  • Optional for garnishing: Salad platter with fresh mint, fresh Thai basil, bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, quartered lime
Cook's notes:
Thai chilies are available at Asian markets. Use caution when working with fresh chilies; wash hands and work surface thoroughly upon completion and do NOT touch face or eyes.
  1. Prepare 2 mixtures -- one to steam in, and one to drizzle over cooked fish. To make steaming mixture, in small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, chili, ginger and 1 tablespoon pepper, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 cup oil; stir until sugar dissolves. To make drizzling sauce, in small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 3 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, plus remaining fish sauce, pepper and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves.
  2. On each side of fish, make 3 parallel, evenly spaced shallow diagonal slashes (cut only halfway to bone). Cut 3 green onions into 4-inch pieces; place pieces inside cavity of fish. Place half of yellow onion slices inside cavity. Cut remaining green onions into 2-inch pieces and, with remaining sliced onion, create a bed for fish in shallow, heat-resistant pie pan.
  3. Place fish in pie pan over bed of onions. Pour "steaming mixture" over fish, making sure some goes in slashes. Cover and refrigerate 25 minutes.
  4. Prepare steamer: When water begins to boil, uncover fish and place pie pan with fish in steamer. Steam 5 to 8 minutes. Check for doneness every few minutes by studying slits of fish. Fish should be flaky but firm to touch and flesh should be opaque and whitened. Remove pie pan from steamer and immediately drizzle fish with second mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately with steamed rice and, if using, salad platter for additional garnish.
Chicken Braised in Ginger and Coconut (Ga Kho Gung)
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs chicken thighs and legs, skinless
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (see cook's notes)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 green onions, sliced, include most of dark green stalks
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • 3 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 fresh Thai bird chili, sliced into thin rings (see cook's notes)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh coconut juice (not coconut milk) or coconut soda such as Coco Rico, divided use (see cook's notes)
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
Cook's notes:
Fish sauce is available at many supermarkets with large Asian specialty sections. Thai bird chilies are available at Asian markets and some supermarkets. Use caution when working with fresh chilies; wash hands and work surface thoroughly upon completion and do NOT touch face or eyes. Coconut juice is the liquid from the interior of the coconut. Coco Rico soda is available at Asian markets.
  1. Wash chicken with cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on plate or baking dish in single layer and sprinkle with sugar. Let sit 15 minutes.
  2. In small bowl, combine garlic, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon pepper, green onions, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ginger and chili.
  3. Heat remaining oil in clay pot or deep skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add chicken. Brown nicely on both sides, about 10-15 minutes, turning as needed (sugar coating will turn darkish brown). Pour fish-sauce mixture over chicken. Add 1/2 cup coconut juice. Reduce heat to low and cover. Gently simmer 2 hours, adding additional coconut juice as needed so pan doesn't become dry and burn.
  4. After 2 hours, chicken will be thoroughly cooked and meat will be falling off bones. The sauce will have thickened nicely. If you want more syrupy texture, you can continue cooking, but not longer than 30 minutes more.
  5. Serve over hot rice. Drizzle sauce over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and black pepper.
Salted Short Ribs in a Clay Pot (Suon Kho Man)
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 lb beef short ribs (or pork riblets)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce (see cook's notes)
  • 1 fresh Thai bird chili, finely chopped (see cook's notes)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup lemon-lime soda
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  • Optional garnish: Fresh herbs such as cilantro, fresh Thai basil or mint
Cook's notes:
Fish sauce is available at Asian markets and many supermarkets with large Asian specialty sections. Thai chilies are available at Asian markets. Use caution when working with fresh chilies; wash hands and work surface thoroughly upon completion and do NOT touch face or eyes.
  1. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and place in large bowl or shallow dish. In small bowl, combine sugar, salt, fish sauce, chili and pepper. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour over ribs, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. In clay pot or deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and cloves. Cook until shallots start to soften. Add ribs and marinade; cook about 8 minutes or until brown on all sides, turning as needed. Add soda and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until ribs are tender and meat falls off bones, about 1 hour. Liquid should be syrup-like consistency. Serve with rice and, if using, herbs.
Spring Rolls with Pork, Shrimp and Mint Leaves (Goi Cuon)
Yield: 6 servings
  • 1/2 lb pork loin with fat
  • 3 Tablespoons salt, divided use
  • 1/2 lb fresh, raw medium shell-on shrimp
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, washed
  • 8 rice-paper rounds (2 extra for practice or if sheet tears) (see cook's notes)
  • 3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, rinsed
  • 4 thin green onions or Chinese chives, cut into 5-inch lengths (see cook's notes)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice vermicelli (bun), cut into 3 1/2-inch lengths (see cook's notes)
  • Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe included)
Cook's notes:
Rice-paper rounds, Chinese chives and rice vermicelli are sold at Asian markets.
  1. Pour enough water in large pot to cover entire piece of pork. Add pork and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to boil on high heat; reduce heat to medium-high and boil until pork is thoroughly cooked, about 15-20 minutes (it should not be pink). Remove pork from water and cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, in another pot, bring enough water to boil to cover shrimp. Add remaining salt and shrimp. Boil until just cooked. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and devein. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise. Cool.
  3. Slice cooled pork against the grain into thin pieces, each roughly 2-by-1-inch. Each slice should have lean meat and fat. Place pork on plate or in bowl.
  4. Wash and peel cucumber. Remove core and cut into 3-inch-long matchsticks. Cut lettuce into thin shreds. Measure 1 1/2 cups lettuce.
  5. To assemble, fill large bowl with lukewarm water. Submerge 1 round of rice paper for about 2 seconds, or enough time to make rice paper pliable. If it's too dry it will easily crack. If too wet, it will be too delicate and will tear. Place rice paper on wooden board on counter.
  6. The ideal is to build a tightly wrapped log. Think of dividing ingredients into 6 servings. Place 1/6 of rice vermicelli on rice paper in log shape across bottom third of rice-paper circle. Add 1/6 lettuce, bean sprouts and mint leaves. On top, place 1/6 sliced pork and shrimp. Finally, add 2 pieces green onion stalk or chives. Fold over left and right sides of rice paper. Fold up bottom third, and roll tightly into roll. Diameter of roll should be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Set aside and prepare remaining rolls. Serve with dipping sauce (see recipe). If making ahead, place in airtight container. Cover with barely damp paper towel. Seal and refrigerate.
Peanut Sauce (Tuong Dau Phong)
Yield: 2 cups
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut oil or Asian sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely ground unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons thick peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • Garnish: 2 Tablespoons finely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  1. Heat oil in small saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden. Drain and discard oil.
  2. In small bowl, whisk garlic with ground peanuts, chili paste, chicken broth, peanut butter, hoisin sauce, sugar and fish sauce.
  3. When mixture has smooth consistency, pour it into saucepan and bring to boil on medium-high heat. Boil 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer. Add cornstarch and mix well until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Stir and garnish with finely chopped peanuts.

Edible landscape expert Jimmy Williams, owner of Hayground Organic Gardening, recounts the story of Goose Creek tomato. Born in 1942, Jimmy and his Native Island Gullah-Geechee family are descendants of slaves brought in bondage from the Caribbean to the coastal islands of the Southern United States to grow rice for plantation owners.

The seeds of the Goose Creek tomato have been passed down through generations. In the 1800's Jimmy's great-great grandmother smuggled them with her aboard the slave ship. When the ship docked at Charleston near Goose Creek, South Carolina, she planted the treasured seeds. Jimmy's grandmother, Elouise Watson, shared this precious heirloom with him more than 45 years ago, assuring Goose Creek's place in his family's garden for generations to come. The Good Creek Tomato has a very high fruit yield and very few seeds. Along with being very heat tolerant, it shows remarkable cold-tolerance and will even ripen through the winter in Hollywood and surrounding areas. It is a wonderful choice for growing in containers.

Jimmy also shares a great composting secret: Spiker Worms, or African Night Crawlers which he says are the best compost worms available. You can contact Jimmy at Hayground Organic Gardening, at the Hollywood or Santa Monica Farmers Markets, or call 323-216-0379 to make an appointment.

Chris Cognac, the Culinary Detective, offered the cop's perspective on donuts and mentioned the following notable shops in the L.A. area:

Bob's Coffee & Doughnuts
Located in the Farmer's Market on Fairfax
Here is an article on Bob's from LA Citybeat

Donut Man
915 East Route 66 in Glendora
This shop serves huge, homemade seasonal doughnuts--strawberry in spring, peach in the fall. It's a modest "shack" run by a Japanese man
Here is a piece on the Donut Man

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Hot, yeast-raised donuts with a cult-like following assume historical importance. Although, the health of the company is failing, it's recent resurgence helped put donuts in the hand of yuppies everywhere. For a time, they joined with Starbucks, which sold their glazed variety. Starbucks no longer sells Krispy Kreme, but they do sell an "Old Fashioned" Starbucks brand donut.

Stan's Corner Donut Shoppe
Westwood institution serves some of L.A.'s best doughnuts. It's been around for over 40 years and is a favorite of UCLA students.

Randy's Donut in Inglewood
Randy's 60-foot doughnut draws motorists for miles and is one of the first things people see when driving from the airport. The sign has been called one of LA's most famous icons. Despite its notoriety, I hear that their donuts really aren't that good.

The Donut Hole
15300 East Amar Road in La Puente, complete with a drive-thru tunnel between two large donuts.

Blinkie's Donut Emporium
4884 Topanga Canyon Blvd in Woodland Hills
Despite a recent health code violation, this shop is a local favorite.

10003 S Normandie Avenue (near Century Blvd) in Los Angeles has the same huge donut sign as Randy's and serves serve the Texas sized donut, which is gigantic. Here is a piece comparing Randy's and Kindle

Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly, takes us to Los Balcones del Peru (1360 Vine Street) in Hollywood for Peruvian food. He recommends the ceviche and the camarones a la piedra, which he's never seen outside the pages of a Peruvian cookbook. ("Los Balcones' owner swears that the dish is unavailable anywhere else in the United States...") Try some of their Peruvian beers as well.

Suzanne Goin, the talented chef of Lucques, AOC, and The Hungry Cat explains the critical importance of seasonality in her cooking. Suzanne's book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, written with Good Food alumni, Teri Gelber, has beautiful fresh menus that star many of our local farmers' best ingredients.

Anthony Dias Blue, author of Anthony Dias Blue's Pocket Guide to Wine 2006, had the update on State Senator Carole Migden's legislation to designate Zinfandel as the official wine of California. To read about the bill, check out this this article in the San Francisco Chronicle.