Faces & Places: More of My Father’s Color Photos of Southern California in the 1940’s

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Three years ago I posted a dozen or so images digitized from 35 mm colored slides my father made in Southern California in the 1940’s. Those photos were viewed by far more people than anything ever on MacroChef, and a number of commentators asked if there might be more. Having looked through hundreds of slides, I’ve found another batch of photos evocative of that long ago time and place. I hope you enjoy them.

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Photos: Top, a day at Santa Monica Pier, a destination for fishing and amusements since 1909, and more recently, also a historical landmark.  Above: Los Angeles Union Station, built in 1939 in a modernized Mission revival style, is still in use today. Amtrak, commuter rail, and Los Angeles’ new subway lines combine to make it the busiest rail station on the West Coast. (Click on any photo to enlarge it)

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These 10 Tips Will Make Life In the Kitchen So Much Better!

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Editor’s Note: Recently I was reminded of  this post which I wrote several years ago, and as MacroChef has added many new readers, it seemed worthwhile to post again. Enjoy!

Although I’ve been cooking professionally for thirty years, sometimes I still feel like a beginner. The culinary world is so vast that what I’ve learned is just a fraction of what there is to know. Aware as I am of my limitations, I hesitate to offer advice–but sometimes I do anyway! So, here is my list of ten tips which, if you take them to heart, could help make you a more confident and polished cook. Much of this, frankly, I’ve learned the hard way, and I pass these suggestions along to you in hopes that you can avoid some of my missteps. Also, I’d love it if you’d offer some kitchen tips of your own. What kitchen wisdom have you discovered which you’d like to share? Comments welcome.

1. Start with a good knife. You really don’t need most kitchen gadgets if you have a good knife. I like the all purpose chef”s knives made by Wusthof or Henckels. While these knives can be pricy, they’re a good investment as they can last for decades. Try out various models to find the size and handle shape most comfortable for you. Shop around and you’ll probably find a deal. Also, invest in a diamond steel to keep your knife sharp. If you have an old, dull, but quality knife, have it professionally sharpened and then maintain the edge with a steel.

2. These are also essential: a roomy cutting board, a micro plane grater, kitchen shears and an instant read thermometer. The later is especially useful if you cook meat, fish or poultry, but an instant read thermometer will tell you if your food is heated through, no matter what it is. From a food safety standpoint, food should be heated to 140˚ F or more. I prefer the nondigital thermometers because they don’t need batteries.

3. Maintain a properly-stocked pantry. By that I mean, stock the essential ingredients you constantly use: salt, soy sauce, miso, vinegars, oil, stock, canned tomatoes, pasta, whatever those are, for your cooking style. Also, herbs and spices. Buy these in small quantities in bulk, if possible, and toss away those more than a year old. Read seven more kitchen tips after the jump…

Photo above: Chef Chuck Collison constructs a vibrant salad, last summer at the Saratoga Springs Retreat Center.

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Two Years On, My House Becomes More and More My Home

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Those of you who have followed this blog may remember that in addition to cooking, one of my passions is interior design. So when I bought my first house in April of 2012, I was finally able to begin to create a home that was completely mine. Back then I promised I would occasionally update you on my progress. I’ve been remiss on keeping that promise, alas. Today, I hope to make up for that, with photos of my living room, dining room, and my new guest room, which I’m calling the Moroccan room. In another post, very soon, there’ll be photos of my kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. Thanks for your patience. Comments, good, bad, indifferent, are indeed welcome!

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Photos:  Top–The platter in the niche above the fireplace was found by my friend and decorating co-conspirator, Frank Melanson. It is believed to  be Tunisian.  Above: The living room as seen from the foyer.  I originally painted the living room and dining room gold, but that proved to be too dull, so I repainted it a brighter, yellowy cream (many more photos after the jump). See what my home looked like in December 2012 here.

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Inspired By A Trip to Spain, We Celebrate a New Year

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I think it was my grandmother who first told me that the older one gets, the faster time goes by.  Back then, it didn’t mean much to me, but it surely does now. It seems like we’ve barely celebrated the start of one year, when the next one slaps us in the face. For twenty years, I’ve marked the beginning of each year with an open house, inviting friends and acquaintances to come for food, drink and conversation. Perhaps it is my hope that through this ritual we can, if only for a moment, quiet the forward rush of time. Also, I love the idea of  colorful characters from the many parts of my life coming together, and getting to know one another. This year, on the second Sunday in January, upwards of forty people dropped by mi casita. Having had the privilege of spending two weeks in Spain last fall, and taking a cooking class in Barcelona,  a Spanish theme seemed inevitable. And so, inspired by the food of Spain, I created a menu, not authentically Spanish perhaps, but rather my impression of a few Spanish dishes, cooked in my style. So, here in pictures and words, are the dishes I served, with a couple of recipes and the complete menu following at the end.

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Photo at the top–Vegetable Paella. Medium grain brown rice sautéed along with diced onion, garlic, tomato and a pinch of smoked paprika and of saffron, cooked in lightly-salted vegetable stock. When the rice is nearly done (about 5o minutes later), I added in diced, steamed  carrot, butternut squash and  sweet potato, and continued cooking for about ten minutes. At this point, I seasoned the paella with a generous sprinkling of umeboshi vinegar (find this in a good natural food store, or substitute a bit of lemon juice and additional salt). Just before serving, I stirred in thawed frozen peas.

Photo above: Seafood Salad.  Surprisingly, I found an exceptionally nice seafood mixture (raw shrimp, scallops, calamari and cooked mussels) at Costco. A day ahead, I briefly steamed some diced fresh fennel and then marinated it in a mixture of orange and lemon juices (along with the zest), mirin, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper (save the feathery fennel leaves for garnish). Separately, I marinated thinly-sliced raw red onion in a similar mixture. The morning of the party, I quickly cooked the shell fish (when the shrimp is firm and thoroughly pink, the seafood is ready). Then I combined the briefly-cooked shell fish with the marinated fennel and red onion. The marinade from the vegetables was almost enough for the entire dish, but I did add some more orange and lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. This can be served chilled or at room temperature.

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All photos by Robert Starkey

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Q: What Would You Do If You Had Only One Afternoon In Paris?

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Paris, ancient as it is, has endured a great plenty of violence, war and revolution. But given the relative peace of recent decades, bloody scenes from the Charlie Hebdo shooting have been shocking indeed. Once again we are reminded that even in one of mankind’s most civilized places, primitive horror can still strike. However, all that was far from my mind on a glorious day last autumn when at the tail end of a European holiday I was privileged to spend a few hours in Paris. I’d been to Paris before and taken in the obligatory sites, so with no agenda, I set out to explore once again a city which never disappoints. Paris really is as gorgeous as the postcards portray. My day ended perfectly too, with a dinner at the atmospheric Left Bank home of my friends, Annette and Robert. So, here are some photos from one afternoon spent wondering the streets of Paris…

___________ P1090901 Photos: Although millions of tourists traipse through the Cathedral of Notre Dame every year, most seem to miss the lovely park just behind the Cathedral, seen here in two views. There are many more of my photos after the jump.

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Michio Kushi Dies at Age 88

 

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Sadly, I’ve received news that  Michio Kushi died in Boston on December 28th, at age 88.  Those of you familiar with macrobiotics or the history of the natural foods movement in America, will surely have heard of Mr. Kushi. Beginning in the 1960’s, he was a leading advocate and teacher of a way of eating which was then controversial but now has become almost mainstream.  Back in the early 1970’s, when I first encountered macrobiotics, little had been written, and what little there was came mostly from Michio. So, although I didn’t always agree with his teachings, he certainly influenced my life in ways I may not have yet even realized.

Living far from Boston, the center of his teaching, my association with Michio and the Kushi Institute was at a distance. I’ve heard him lecture a few times, and once had the privilege of meeting with him at the family home in Brookline, Mass.  Although it was nearly 30 years ago, I remember that day vividly. On a chilly Sunday afternoon in January, Michio invited 8-10 gay men to have what turned into an hours-long discussion of how macrobiotics could impact the then rapidly-growing AIDS epidemic. I will always appreciate how Michio gave of his time and hospitality that day.   I should note that he had been working with AIDS patients for several years by that time, even in the early days when many feared that the disease could be spread by casual contact. For his courage in advocating early on for AIDS patients, I salute him.

The New York Times obituary is here:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/us/michio-kushi-advocate-of-natural-foods-in-the-us-dies-at-88.html?emc=eta1

Photo: via Wikipedia

Quick, Easy and Seasonal: Try This Udon Bowl with Salmon and Spring Vegetables

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If there’s anything better than a Farmer’s Market to stimulate me to get into the kitchen and create a fresh, seasonal recipe, I can’t think what it would be. Warm weather and long sunny days have already descended on the Bay Area, and with that comes an abundance of early-season produce.  This morning I found leeks, garden peas, fava beans, green onions and shiitake mushrooms, all of which figure in this light, yet comforting udon noodle recipe. At my local Asian supermarket I picked up a package of fresh udon noodles. Using these precooked noodles makes an already easy dish go together even faster, and I find these noodles to be thicker and more succulent than noodles cooked from dry.  A caution: often these noodles come with a favoring packet full of weird ingredients–just toss it away! Start with a well-seasoned stock, and you’ll end up with a hearty, satisfying lunch or dinner. I’ve added only a little soy sauce, there’s no ginger or garlic or spice or oil, so the favor of the fresh vegetables, salmon and noodles really shines. And I think you’ll appreciate that this recipe requires only one pot, and comes together in under 30 minutes.  Happy Spring!  (Full recipe after the jump)

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