Change is in the air

I love fall! For me, fall is like spring is for many people. Fall is about growth and possibilities; baking and braising; learning and doing. This year is especially ripe for change and new adventures. I am determined to make my life and my living with my heart full and your taste buds singing. As I like to say, “more shall be revealed”.

Plans are being hatched. Keep following me for more frequent posts about what will come next for Flori Cooks and about what I’m cooking – like last night’s king oyster mushrooms with caramelized meyer lemon.

Stay tuned for more!

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Pasta sauce en papillote on the grill

I don’t like the very idea of aluminum foil and food, especially acidic foods like tomatoes. I’m sure I’ve already stored enough aluminum in my brain to ensure that my daughter has a daunting future…but that’s a different blog post.

So I decided to experiment with lining foil with parchment. I’ve been doing things like packets of string beans with olive oil, closed up tight so they fry until the packets are threatening to explode, but I really did not want to do this with tomatoes. So here we go…

  • 12 – 15 small Roma, San Marzano, large cherry or other flavorful tomatoes
  • Chopped onion
  • Garlic to taste
  • Minced hot pepper (I used a fish pepper just because the bush exploded in the garden)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 oz fresh pasta or 2.5 oz dry pasta of your preference
  • Veggies to add to the bowl
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chiffonade of basil
  • Other herbs

The longest step in this recipe is bringing a LARGE pot of water to a rapid boil. Start with that while you heat the grill.

Lay out a sheet of foil with a sheet of parchment paper on top of it. Layer the ingredients:

Grill the other veggie that you want to add. Yes, brother mine, you could grill as all piece of steak or fish or maybe some shrimp too. Cook the packet for a good 10 minutes until it’s really sizzling and has expanded. It did not expand as much as an unlined foil packet does, which I found odd.

After everything is off the grill cook the pasta.

Assemble the whole thing with an artistic flair and go directly to the front porch!

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Pasta Primadona

I’m calling this “Primadona” because you can have it any way you like. This is more of a technique than a recipe (which, as anyone who knows me knows, is how I cook everything). This is about what to do when the summer produce gets so nuts that you have an insanity of riches whether it is from your garden (as these cherry tomatoes were) or because you lost your mind at the farmers market…
IMG_5715Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 Pound of Domenico’s most excellent pasta (shape of your choice; I happen to like fettuccini or linguini). Look for it at the Farmers’ Market. Check out Dom’s website. If you don’t live in LA, you will have to settle for some other fresh pasta, poor you…
  • Olive oil (really GOOD olive oil; I can’t stress that enough)
  • Fresh Garlic  – 1 – 4 cloves to taste slivered
  • Vegetables (ok, yes, the tomatoes are fruit)
    •      Sugar snap peas (1/2 pound) – string them!
    •      1 to 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh herbs – what in your garden? Chopped. Save some whole for garnish.
    •      Basil (lots)
    •      Thyme
    •       Oregano
    •       Parsley
  • Red pepper flakes (optional, well this is all optional except the pasta, no?).
    • I like Aleppo pepper for flavor and a little bit of a hotter pepper too
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan – REAL. Parmesan.

Bring a large pot of water to a very full boil. Keep it there. Separate the pasta into the shallow bowl you will serve in. This will keep it from clumping. DON’T COOK IT YET! Set aside. Keep the water boiling.

In a 10 – 12″ skillet over medium high fire heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until it starts to shimmer. Add your longest cooking veggie (in this case the snap peas). When they are about 1/2 cooked (just about a minute) add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes (or other veggies, keeping cooking times in mind); season. When the tomatoes start to collapse add the herbs to the skillet and drop the pasta into boiling water. Cook the pasta only to al dente. Drain in a large colander. Do NOT rinse. Shake to lose most of the water. Transfer the pasta to the serving bowl and drizzle with more olive oil. Top with the veggies/sauce, grate Parmesan to taste, garnish, serve and take a bow.

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Proud to be part of this!

robert-eggerI can’t say any of this any better than this interview does, so I will just ask you to read it.

To my loyal readers I will say that I’ve been posting less because I’ve been really busy, but never too busy to cook. Last night I made myself a great pasta primavera with whatever was in the fridge – leftover grilled asparagus, bell pepper, onion, mushroom and LOTS of herbs from the garden and olive oil. Super simple and fast.

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Off topic – I’m going to Congress!

I’m getting ready to go to Washington DC to advocate Congress with my fellow AJWS Global Justice Fellowship fellows for passage of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). It now has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and resonates deeply with so many of us right now in light of the kidnappings in Nigeria of hundreds of teenage girls from the school where they were hoping for and working toward a different future. Passage of IVAWA is part of AJWS’ current campaign called We Believe. I wrote a bit about the campaign on this blog in November when I traveled to Oaxaca and Mexico City to meet groups there working to end gender-based violence and to improve indigenous land rights. I was deeply moved by the dedication and fearlessness of the women (and the men who support them) that I met on that trip.

But it came home to me in a different way yesterday. Anyone who knows me knows that trip preparations involve getting my brows groomed. That is done at a threading salon where I love watching the Bollywood music videos while I wait for my turn with the beautiful Sapna. As one would expect this week, she asked if I had Mothers Day plans. I told her that I would be missing my usual excursion with my daughter and granddaughter this year and why. Tears welled and she told me that a school friend of hers, now a journalist, works to change the attitude in India and that it is a hard sell. She said that women give their daughters as young as 12 or 13 to marry older men, some with one or more wives already, saying that it happened to them so why not to their daughters. She hugged me and said, “Please ask them in Washington to help.”

8th b-dayI had explained IVAWA to 8-year-old Amanda last week – very simply – she knows that some women are abused here in the US and worldwide, but she was shocked by the concept of child marriage. She said this was a good reason to miss Mothers Day.


You can learn more about IVAWA and We Believe at the AJWS website.

We believe that love is not a crime. We believe that women and men deserve to live lives free of violence and intimidation. We believe that it is our responsibility as a nation to do three things to promote human rights in the developing world: Stop violence against women and girls; Stop hate crimes against LGBT people; and Empower girls to end child marriage. IVAWA would give US agencies working overseas tools to accomplish some of this.

You can be part of this too. Urge your representative to get this bill passed and signed in a hurry. Raise your voice. Be part of the change.

OK, now I’m ready to go.

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