Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pretty Winter Cookies

photo generously provided by Charles Schiller

My favorite thing to style is the mighty baked good.  The aesthetics of baked goods speak to me in a nostalgic way that no other food can touch.  Probably has something to do with the fact that I am a hard core sugar addict and would main line apple pie if I could figure out how to get it in the damn needle.  For these polar cut out cookies I used extremely pale blue, green, purple and pink royal icing with sanding sugar over the piped lines to add to the icy mood.  This type of pristine sugar cookie takes hours and hours to make perfectly and is one of the great lies of food styling.  I don't know many home cooks who have the time, patience or determination to attempt such detailed edibles only to watch them get snarfed down in five seconds flat.  But they are fun to make if you have 12 hours to kill and are able to slip into a piping bag zen trance.  Very relaxing.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Sweet Hot Nuts

No not THAT kind.  You guys are gross!  Dirty filthy minds, all of you!

This kind:

mmmmmmmmmm. Here's the recipe, but be careful there's about a bazillion calories in every bite.

Sweet Hot Nuts

4-5 cups mixed raw nuts
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon  paprika
1/2 teaspoon  sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients except nuts in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Allow mixture to come to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Remove mixture from heat and combine with nuts in a medium mixing bowl.  Toss to coat and spread evenly on a baking pan coated in nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper.  Bake for 25 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until syrup is thickened.  Let cool and ENJOY!

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Debbie Lee conquers the mighty SQUID!

One of the best things about living in Los Angeles is the incredible smoosh of just about every culture on earth, side by side, right here in my home town.  That means I can start my day eating jalebi in Artesia, make a quick stop in Glendale for a kabob and end up in Koreatown up to my eyelids in SQUID.  wait...squid?  Yes squid.   Last week I had the honor of working with the hilarious and oh-so-talented Debbie Lee

What an education!!!!  On my prep day Debbie sent me to the fab Koreatown Galleria where I got a crash course in all food-stuff Korean.  The spice aisle alone blew my mind, and then I got to the fish section.  Wooooo Hooooooooooo!  I am not particularly squeamish (let's put it this way; if the toilet ever overflows in our house I am the one who cleans it up while my hubby cowers in the corner, whimpering) and I am by no means a vegetarian, but I do feel a pang of what.....guilt?  Disgust?  Let's just call it "discomfort" at the prospect of cutting off an animal's head and ripping it's guts out with my bare hands.  In the fish section of the Koreantown Galleria there are MANY opportunities to get in touch with your hunter/gatherer roots.  It is WHOLE food in the strongest sense of the word.  Imagine my hesitation when instructed to purchase six whole squid to "clean, and cut into rings and tentacles." 

Luckily, on the shoot day, Debbie was on hand to instruct me in the finer points of squid butchery.  It seems it helps not to name the little darlings, it makes it easier when it's time to separate Sir Squidlington the Third's head from his wee body.  

Tentacles are off!!  All the parts neatly trimmed and ready for the frying pan.

Sir Squidlington the Third is really a thing of beauty, especially in his final incarnation:

Debbie Lee's Spicy Stir-fried Squid

Sorry folks you'll have to wait for the book to come out for this recipe.  Might I just add that working with Debbie Lee was a tasty food fantasy.  Every dish yummier than the last.  I'm going to have to become an Ahn-Joo food truck stalker! 

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dolley Madison Saves President Washington!

photo generously provided by Charles Schiller

Ok so this charming fella I work with recently told me the story of his unusual childhood birthday cake requests and it goes something like this:  At around age 8 Richard's birthday was fast approaching.  His mom ( a very devoted and loving mother by all general standards) asked her young son what he would like for his birthday cake.  Being of a particularly patriotic nature, Richard requested Washington's Cherry Tree rendered in cake form, and could they please have miniature hatchets to eat it with at the party.  Not wanting to disappoint, his mother did her very best to create the cherry tree and the party went off without a hitch.  A year rolls by and it's time again for Richard's birthday party.  Again his mom asks what he would like for his cake.  Again Richard reaches into his store of presidential folklore for inspiration and declares that he would like "Abe Lincoln's Log Cabin surrounded by a Field of Golden Wheat."  Some how his mom is able to summon all of her latent creativity to the fore and pulls off a passable log cabin cake perched atop an icing field of wheat.  The next year when asked for his cake choice Richard declared grandly:
"I want Dolley Madison Fleeing the Burning White House with the Portrait of Washington Under Her Arm!"  Needless to say Richard's mom refused point blank and young Richard got a plain spice cake that year.  When I heard the story I just HAD to attempt a version of the insane edible object.  On a recent two week shoot I put this baby together on the sly and was able to surprise grown up Richard with his Dolley Madison Cake at long last.
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