Cake Stands, Cholesterol, and Kabocha Squash Soup.

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Oh hello there, were you admiring my new cake stand? It just arrived from Food52 and it's taking the place of my old glass cake stand that had a moment in the sun, a few years ago, when I discovered that it was also a punch bowl. That glass cake stand, which I think I got at Crate & Barrel?, always seemed really generic to me and I wanted something with more pizzazz. So during a trip down a cake stand internet rabbit hole, I hit upon the stand you see above and we fell immediately in love. You may be wondering, "Where's the lid? How will you keep your cookies safe?" Fear not! The old glass lid from the old glass cake stand fits perfectly here, so it's only going into semi-retirement. Everybody wins.

And speaking of winning, guess what? Last I left you, I was going to get my cholesterol checked and my new doctor had some strong words about my cholesterol from two years ago: namely, "You have to lower it." But then the results came in from my most recent test and, turns out, I did lower it... like, a lot. All that running and smoothie-drinking paid off! The bad news is that just as I was getting these great results, I got hit with a horrible stomach bug that's still rearing it's ugly head today. So haven't been cooking or eating that much this past week, but the stuff that I did cook was pretty great... here, I'll show you.

What I've Been Cooking:

1. Kabocha Squash Soup.

The hardest thing about making Kabocha Squash Soup is cutting a Kabocha Squash in half. Those things are hard; I hacked away, for a while, with my largest knife, but then realized if I just punctured it and then pushed down, that was a safer way to go about it. Here it is: cut in half, seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I roasted it, cut-side down, at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes... though maybe I should've gone a little longer (the flesh closer to the skin was tough). Here it is out of the oven.

After that, making this soup was easy peasy. Just cook some onions or leeks (I used leeks) in a little butter, then flavor with some chopped ginger and garlic (as much as you like). When everything's soft and fragrant, add a bunch of broth. I was lucky enough to be sent some Brodo from none other than Chef Marco Canora from New York City's Hearth, so I used that (click the word Brodo for the link to buy some yourself; it's pretty great).

I melted that in another pot, poured that into the leeks, garlic, and ginger, and when it was all simmering, I scooped out the squash flesh directly into the soup, let it all cook together, and then blended it in a blender. (You can use an immersion blender, but I hadn't used my blender in a while.) Here's the finished soup, garnished with some toasted pumpkin seeds. It was so simple, but that's what made it so perfect.

2. Beet Salad with Apples and Gorgonzola.

This salad was basically just an assembly of different elements that I prepared: for the beets, I rubbed them in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, wrapped in little foil packets, and roasted at 400 degrees for about an hour. I rubbed the skins off with paper towels, sliced the beets in wedges, and then marinated them in a mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar (but a dark one: made with Zinfandel), more salt and pepper. Meanwhile, I toasted some walnuts until they were dark.

To assemble the salad, I laid the marinated beets on to plates, added some sliced apple (I didn't toss the apple with the beets so it would keep its color), sprinkled with the toasted walnuts, then added big chunks of Roquefort, and finally, I topped with some microgreens I picked up in Echo Park. Paired with the soup, it was the most autumnal of autumnal dinners. Our friend Henry really dug it.

3. Chicken Caesar Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.

Once, long ago, I did a post on my blog called Chicken Caesar Fit for the Gods. And, frankly, not much has changed since I wrote that post: I still make my chicken Caesar the same way. I grind chunks of good Parmesan in the food processor, dump it out, and use that same food processor to make the dressing. As for the chicken, I use the Barefoot Contessa's technique of roasting breasts with the bone and the skin on to keep them moist... works every time. I made this especially for Craig on Monday night because it's one of his favorites.

Where I've Been Eating:

This section's going to be especially short because of my illness, but on Sunday night we went to Little Beast in Eagle Rock and had a truly terrific meal.

You ever have a restaurant that you really like and then you go there, one night, and have a meal that really blows you away, more than the food there ever really blew you away before? That's what happened at Little Beast on Sunday. And it was mostly because of a salad (this newsletter is all salads!).

I ordered their kale salad with arugula, because my doctor said kale is a good "insoluble fiber" (sorry for mentioning insoluble fibers in my newsletter) and wasn't expecting much, but this was so, so good... probably my favorite thing that we ate all night. I said to the waiter, at some point, "Why is this so good?" and he said, "Because the dressing is a burnt leek aioli." Oh! And there was lots of Feta. But that was easily the best kale salad I've ever had in my life.

But Craig's appetizer, a cream of tomato soup, was also stupendous... so much so that I made him do halvesies:

We each got the pork chop for our entree and here's where the meal faltered slightly; the pork chops were a little dry, and I wasn't crazy about the sweet-and-sour squash they put on top to cut the richness. It was all just ok.

But the dessert saved the day: apple cinnamon bread pudding.

That's a Bourbon caramel sauce on top. It was out of this world. Little Beast is one of those secret gem restaurants that no one who doesn't live near Eagle Rock would ever think to make a journey for, but they'd probably leave way more satisfied than if they went to a hipper, more of-the-moment spot downtown. Which is all to say: I can't wait to go back.

Links & Things:

* A Cake Fit for Julia Child (Dorie Greenspan), New York Times Magazine
* Peanut Butter and Paprika Cookies, David Lebovitz
* U.S. Citizens: ‘We Love When Thing Taste Like Other Thing,” The Onion
* Dear Restaurant Owners: Please Forgive Me, Bon Appétit
* Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman Dreamed of Writing the Second Chapter in the #MeToo Story. Instead, they got scorched, The Cut.
* April Bloomfield Breaks Her Silence About Harassment at Her Restaurants, The New York Times
* How To Use Up Every Last Scrap of a Fennel Bulb, The Guardian

Culture-wise, Craig and I loaded up Filmstruck on Saturday (do you have Filmstruck? It's like Netflix, but for Criterion movies) and watched Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman and as lofty as that sounds, it was really delightful... especially the opening sequences of the whole family gathering for Christmas dinner. On Thursday and Friday last week, I was supine on the couch feeling awful, so I marathoned the entire first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (all eighteen episodes) and absolutely adored it. That's one of those shows that I always knew that I would like, but now that I've started it, I can't stop... color me a Rachel Bloom fan. She's the best.

OK, that's all for this week folks....

Until next time!

Your pal,