Moussaka and Chicken Liver Mousse
Plus: Dinners at Bavel and Botanica, Friends Cook for Us, and Colu Henry on Lunch Therapy.
I’ve been cooking up a storm lately: testing for the cookbook, testing for an upcoming L.A. Times article (look out for it this Thursday… it features my all-time #1 cookie), and just cooking for me and Craig.
So, where to begin? Okay let’s begin with moussaka. On Saturday night, I cooked for one of my favorite bakers/friends, Nicole Rucker, chef/owner of Fat & Flour and author of Dappled, along with her husband, Blaine, and Nicole’s friend Alexander Roberts, aka: @alexanderbakes on Instagram, and our friend Henry.
Testing for the cookbook, I made two wintery dishes that had no place on a hot almost-summer’s day. But that’s what made them fun! No light salads, grilled fish, or homemade ice pops; instead, I served up chicken liver mousse.
Adorned with homemade pickled red onions, Breton crackers, dried figs, cornichons, and a drizzle of Saba (which is a kind of winey grapey thing made from boiling down grape must).
And then moussaka, which was a HUGE cooking project, but a rewarding one. There was roasted eggplant, there was lamb ragu, there was béchamel sauce. But I have to say, the results were pretty spectacular.
Can’t wait for you to try it when you get the cookbook in Fall 2022.
Alex brought butterscotch pudding for dessert, which he garnished with pecans in the kitchen.
It was a delight.
So what else have I been cooking? I tested a baked pasta dish on Wednesday night.
And despite all of this heavy food, I went to the gym four days last week and ate smoothies for lunch and then made grilled swordfish with bok choy one night.
Beach body, here I come!
Our friends Kevin and Conor hosted us last night and Kevin cooked a bunch of amazing food from his garden. Most notably: stuffed grape leaves (yes, he grows grape leaves… well, I guess he grows grapes), eggplant rollatini, and salad.
He also made a glorious raspberry rhubarb pie that was so bright and tangy. I’ll have to get the recipe.
Now for dinners out. Last week, I snagged a 5:30 PM reservation at Bavel (one of L.A.’s hottest restaurants) and invited my friend Henry.
This was the first day that masks were no longer mandated, so the place was. a. scene.
We sat at at the chef’s counter, where we watched chefs frantically rolling pita, throwing hot coals into the oven, and spooning sauces on to plates. It was actually kind of stressful.
But the food! Oh the food there is sublime. Like this hummus which was so creamy and the pita was so hot and fluffy and when you swiped it through, with the schug, it was definitely one of the best bites I’ve had in a long time.
Then there was this flatbread, also warm and fluffy like the pita, with spring peas and Feta.
Not pictured: the fried quail, which Henry picked, and it was so lovely and eminently eatable (I think they took out the bones). And the oxtail, which fell apart with just the swipe of a fork. For dessert, we shared this ice cream terrine.
If you see a reservation available at Bavel: go.
On Friday night, we met our friends Antonio and Matthew for dinner at Botanica. It was crazy because Antonio and I were wearing the same shirt (jk).
Botanica’s one of my favorite L.A. restaurants and sitting on the sidewalk, with lots of people going by, on this first mask-free weekend was pure bliss. We had a lot of great food, my favorite bite being the fried squash blossom stuffed with smoked salmon spread.
I was really excited when I opened the mail a few days ago, and the print version of my Washington Post article about post-vaccine dinner parties arrived in a big envelope. I didn’t realize I was front page news!
Hopefully, there’ll be a lot more of that coming.
We have a great talk all about her cabaret career, working for chefs like Scott Conant and Marcus Samuellson, her love for wine, how she develops recipes, her Italian grandma, ego and egolessness in food writing, and she may even sing a little “Peel Me a Grape” at the end. CLICK HERE to listen.
Now for some LINKS that caught my attention (I totally forgot to do this last week… sorry!):
Fox Searchlight is making a movie called THE MENU that my friend Ethan is working on that sounds like a wicked treat (Deadline);
Kenji’s become a Seattle influencer (Seattle Times);
Alexa Weibel’s macaroni salad looks like a great modern twist on a classic recipe (NYT Cooking);
Wonderful Priya Krishna profile of Martin Yan, one of my favorite TV chefs (NYT);
Sonja Morgan’s toaster oven recipes (are you really going to click this link?) (Refinery29);
Sadly, Chef Mark Peel passed away this weekend. If you don’t know about his influence on California cuisine and the American food scene in general, read his obituary here (Eater).
That’s all for this week, folks!
If you missed my Thursday paid-subscribers only e-mail, you missed an essay called “Cooking Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” If you want to read that and you don’t want to miss the next one, here’s a discount for becoming a paid subscriber.
Until next time!