Somewhere Over the Rainbow Chard

I love Swiss chard, it’s one of the best greens in my opinion. It cooks up velvety and has a beautiful earthy flavor.

Rainbow chard from Malibu (more glamorous than other rainbow chard)

Rainbow chard from Malibu (more glamorous than other rainbow chard)

So I was thrilled at the Friday farmer’s market here in Topanga to discover bags overstuffed with leaves of rainbow chard — white, golden and red. The chard was grown in Malibu, so they were charging $5 for it. (Usually I have rainbow chard growing in my own garden for free, but things have lately gone fallow.) Smitten, I bought the chard anyway. More

The Drizzle that Makes All the Difference

There are a lot of great drizzles in the world.

A drizzle of honey over thick Greek yogurt.

A drizzle of chocolate atop an old-fashioned buttermilk donut.

A cold drizzle on a gray Parisian day that causes you to duck into a cozy bistro for a bowl of soup and a long afternoon with a bottle of wine.

But for my money, the greatest drizzle of them all, the drizzle that makes all the difference, is the drizzle of a good, fruity olive oil over a plate of pasta.

This is one of the simplest and most important cooking tips among the many I will bestow upon you here. More

More Tiny Little Fishies

I don’t know what it is about small fish that is so appealing to me.

I remember being in Italy as a child, and looking on in horror as my parents dug into platefuls of tiny fried fish, uncleaned and with heads intact! (Why this was more objectionable to my 11-year-old sensibilities than the squid tentacles I was gobbling with wild abandon that same trip I’ll never know.) Fast forward a quarter century of so, and I can’t get enough of the small fry.

Italian-style “fritto di mare” fried whitefish

I buy teeny, tiny “ice fish” — no longer than a nickel and pale white — at the Japanese market, coat them in a light tempura batter and make fish fries. I buy smelt or other little fish, and recreate the fritto misto that traumatized me as a child in Italy. I purchase silvery sardines to pickle or throw on the grill. I can’t remember when it all changed, perhaps it was the climbing-a-mountain/crossing-a-new-frontier aspect it. But whenever and however, I became a devotee of diminutive dabs. More

Cicchetti

The most wonderful thing about Venice is you can get completely lost, and yet never be completely lost. The city is essentially a big round island of canals and narrow pedestrian streets that all fold in on one another, leading nowhere and everywhere at once. And if you wander long enough, you’ll eventually wind up someplace you recognize — sometimes even back at the place where you started.

I remember wandering like that once through a maze of alleyways on an eerily quiet and foggy March afternoon in Venice with my sister, trying to find our way back to our penzione. Eventually frustrated in our efforts, we tucked into one of the city’s ubiquitous bàcari wine bars for refueling — a welcome glass of wine and a few plates of blissful cecchitti. More

Let Them Eat Flowers

We stopped by our friend Heather’s house the other evening for a visit. On the counter were two enormous zucchini.

“Did someone leave those on your porch?” I asked.

“My client gave them to me,” she replied.

How generous of them, I thought to myself.

“They’re too big to eat, right?”

“Well,” I pondered, “you could make a parmagiana kind of thing with them. I’ve got a good recipe for Greek zucchini balls. But those would make about 400.”

Zucchini blossoms

I’m always wary of the food-giving generosity of friends, neighbors, loved ones, strangers and clients. More

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