Another birthday has come and gone. My birthday week was especially nice—no grand plans, just plenty of homework-free hours and good food. Before my lovely birthday, I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with my parents, plus Jonji got to experience a crazy couple days of bad luck.
Last Thursday night I drove Jonji to the airport for his flight to Maryland, where his medical school representative’s conference was. That left me alone on Friday, but with plenty to get done before my parents were supposed to arrive in the afternoon. I went grocery shopping (stocking up on heavy cream and butter for my mom) and then went to Otis to get some printing done. The printing took a lot longer than I thought, so that by the time I had rushed home to clean I only had half an hour to go before my parents were destined to arrive. I got enough done, however, and happily welcomed them in.
I had planned to make short ribs with sautéed chard and mashed potatoes for dinner, plus apple pie pockets for dessert, and since I hadn’t had a chance to start it earlier, I enlisted Mom and Dad’s help to get the meal going. Fortunately, Dad’s a mashed potato wizard, so I felt confident leaving him in charge while Mom and I ran out to grab a movie. We spent the rest of the evening eating delicious food, watching a lovely movie called “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” and cooing over Kitty’s cuteness.
The following day was all about the food (big surprise, I know). We started the day off with a workout at Depot, then went home for a huge breakfast and coffee. After that, we made the trek over to Neveux for their ever-delicious ice cream, and drove all the way back home in a food-induced stupor. Our final stop of the day was Abbot Kinney, where we found my new favorite cocktail source, The Tasting Kitchen. Mom got a lavender-infused cocktail (she had also had lavender ice cream earlier) after a bit of menu confusion during which she thought one drink was called “Mop on the Highway” (correction: Moped on the Highway, which is slightly more appetizing). The bartender was very cool, and the atmosphere was extremely pleasant. After we had finished our drinks, we explored the shops a bit and then went to Gjelina for dinner. All of the food was great, but the star of the meal was the duck confit with roasted persimmons. And no, Leo was not there, but we did see a small rat skitter behind Mom on the outside wall, which was almost as cool as the Leo sighting.
On Sunday we walked to the Farmer’s Market, where Mom felt right at home exploring all of the booths. She peppered me with food-gifts, including delicious chocolate-hazelnut butter and some avocados—a rare treat for me. After we had walked back home, Dad acted as handyman and put up my new chicken print (a gift from them) as well as a couple other odds and ends. Finally, it was time for them to leave. Family goodbyes are never fun, even when you know you’ll see each other in a couple of weeks. It’s especially hard when you realize that your parents are really cool, and you want to hang out with them more often than a few times a year.
Jonji had the BEST week last week. And by best, I mean worst. First of all, he missed his flight on Monday and instead of coming home at 10 AM, actually came in at 12 AM. The next evening, some guy drove head-on into him (in his car) for literally no clear reason at all, and then proceeded to drive off after motioning Jonji to pull over. Fortunately Jonji is ok, but the poor old car is done-zo. However, his bad week ended after the car crash, and the next day, my birthday, was full of… homework. I did take the day off class, though, and so had a very relaxing and enjoyable day making my own mini birthday cake. Before you feel bad for me, know that I LOVE making cakes, so it was a treat (literally and figuratively) for me.
Jonji’s final went very well, so he was in a good mood all weekend. On Saturday we celebrated my birthday with Depot friends, starting at The Tasting Kitchen (again) and finishing the night at Stella Barra. Good food, good company, good birthday week.
LA has finally gotten really cold! As in, wear-a-scarf-around-my-head-like-a-Russian-grandmother-in-the-house-cold. Or at least as cold as Southern California can get. Our best source of heat is now the oven, which actually makes me much more excited to cook in the evenings. I’ve been making many more soups—gotta stock up on that heal-all broth—as well as other, heartier meals. This rice dish is perfect for cold nights; it’s rich, sweet, and full of comforting rice. Mom came up with it last year while her, Dad, and Emma were in Hawaii, and it’s been a staple in their house and mine ever since. I like to serve it with roasted chicken and baked sweet potatoes.
Mom’s Forbidden Rice
1/3 cup forbidden rice
1 cup water
1 tbsp butter
1 cup brown rice
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 thyme sprigs
2 cups water
2–3 delicata squash, seeds removed, peeled and thinly sliced
2 leeks, root and leaves removed
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 bunch dino kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced
4+ tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium pot. Add the 1/2 red onion, 1/4 tsp salt, and thyme sprigs and cook until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the brown rice and toast, stirring frequently, for a couple minutes. Add the 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover almost entirely with a lid, then simmer for about 40 minutes to an hour.
As you start the brown rice, bring the 1 cup water to a boil, and add 1 tbsp butter and a bit of salt. Once the water boils, add the forbidden rice. Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 35 minutes. When the rice is done, drain well in a sieve.
While the rice cooks, make the squash. Cut into half moons roughly 1/4 inch thick. Toss in a bowl with a couple glugs of olive oil to coat, 1/4 tsp salt and a few cracks of pepper. Roast for 15–25 minutes, or until the squash is completely tender and slightly browned. Watch out—it’s super easy to let the squash burn.
Meanwhile, slice the leeks in half lengthwise, then chop into half moons roughly 1/8 inch thick. Rinse throughly and set aside. Slice the shallot and the onion into thin half moons as well.
Strip the kale, making sure to remove the whole stem. Chop kale into slivers, then wash and dry.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with a couple more glugs of olive oil. When the butter sizzles, add the leeks, onion, and shallot, plus 1/2 tsp salt. Sautée for 7–10 minutes, until the leeks and onion start to caramelize. Add the kale and stir, cooking until the leaves begin to wilt. Add both rices and squash and stir. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm.