Cowboy Cooking in the Old West

When our friends, Donna and Markian, told me they were moving into trailers on a big piece of property on the last mountain before you get to the sea, my mind immediately went in one direction: chuckwagon!

The compound

The compound (“chuckwagon” cooking area at center)

While not the height of culinary sophistication, chuckwagon cooking has always had some appeal to me. There’s something undeniably romantic about the image of sitting around a campfire in the open air, a steak sizzling in a pan, beans simmering, a kettle of crummy cowboy coffee burning. I like the elemental quality of the cuisine, where a slice of grilled cow counts as a vegetable. Plus, I wanted people to call me “Cookie,” even if just for a day. More


Let it Roll, Baby, Roll

It was Nat’s idea, and a good one at that.

“Let’s make lobster rolls on Sunday,” he said on Wednesday over margaritas at our house. “Let’s invite ourselves over to the Glynn’s house and go swimming and do it there.” This was my kind of spontaneous inspiration!

Nat would buy the lobsters, I would do the cooking, and they would host. (Coincidentally, as it turned out, our friends, “the Glynn’s” — Aaron and Britt — had been planning on inviting us all over that very day, so they were amenable to the announcement that they would be hosting a party.)


Nat got online to order the crustaceans, and I leapt from my chair. “Hold on, hot dog!” I said, “That’ll cost you $75 in shipping! Have you tried the 99 Ranch Market?” More

Dan Does Louie

A couple years back, my pal Dan (most recently of rattlesnake culinary ambitions infamy) invited us over for dinner. He was making Crab Louie.

Crab Louie, I thought, now there’s a classic dish that doesn’t get much ink in the foodie lexicon. So I decided I would feature Dan’s dinner on my blog. On the appointed night, we arrived wine in hand.

Dan's Crab Louie

Dan’s Crab Louie

“Tell me what you’re doing there, Dan,” I said, iPhone video camera in hand. And Dan, who is a natural on camera, walked me through the process of making this delicious salad while I asked insightful questions and captured it all on the phone. Unfortunately, it was Dan’s phone I was using. More

Happy Tri-th of July

To give you a sense of how thoroughly ingrained in the collective California consciousness the tri tip is, I need tell a story.


The 4th of July was approaching, I was at the market, and tri tip was on sale. I figured that would be the perfect thing to grill for a few friends who were coming by, so I bought a nice three pounder, brought it home, sprinkled it with salt, wrapped it in paper towels and put it in the fridge to cure for a few days. More

The American Series, Pt. VII — Cherry Cobbler

With summer comes all things American — baseball, barbecues, fireworks, hot dogs and burgers, corn on the cob, the beach. It seems as if summer is the quintessential American season — a time of sunny optimism, that most American trait.

Willa picking cherries

Willa picking cherries

Each region of the country celebrates the season a little differently. We have our own unique summer traditions in Southern California — margaritas and mariachi, carne asada, Spanish rosé, tri tip on the grill, Dodger dogs and Hollywood Bowl picnics. One summer favorite I’ve always eyed with suspicion was cherry cobbler. Until recently, that is… More

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