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Happy (belated) Birthday, Barb

My mentor, boss, and sweet friend of nearly 25 years, Barbara Fenzl, celebrated her birthday last Saturday. She was traveling at the time, so I celebrated with her yesterday.

barb linda and jacques

We didn’t take a photo together, so I’m posting this vintage picture of Barb, Jacques Pepin, and me… one of my all time favorites. And it is the perfect picture to post since I bought her a vintage item as her gift.


Do you know what it is?

cheese safe

Does “les fromages de la ferme” or “Aux bons Fromages” give you a clue?

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August 9, 2013   6 Comments

as requested by Peggy…

pita jungle

After not seeing each other for more than three weeks, Peggy and I just had to get together and go out for lunch this past Monday. That’s a long time to not see your BFF!

The day before, I called her to make our lunch plans. Coincidentally, she was having lunch at Pita Jungle, enjoying Coconut Curried Soup w/ Chickpeas, with her daughter, Natalie.

Peggy said, “Linda, I LOVE this soup! You have to taste it, figure out how to make it, and give me the recipe!”  I told her that if she didn’t mind going back to Pita Jungle the next day – I’d do my best.

Problem is, the Coconut Curried Soup with Chickpeas is not on the printed or online menus at Pita Jungle. This means there is no description of the soup for me take any of my cues from.

I’ve deciphered restaurant recipes many times before but there’s always been some sort of guide or reference, you know, a description of the dish – besides just the food itself. This was going to be more challenging than I had originally thought.

Monday, I ordered the soup. I ordered nothing else, I wanted all my focus to be on the flavors of that soup.  I tasted it and knew some of the ingredients for certain; obviously coconut milk, probably full fat. I’m going to use lite coconut milk for my recipe, feel free to use full fat if you’d rather.

There was most certainly red curry paste, garlic, and ginger … and possibly jalapeño as well.

pita jungle soup

Next, I spread the vegetables out on the rim of the bowl to see what I could see; I snapped this photo of it – let’s see… red bell pepper, tomato, poblano pepper, parsley, chickpeas, onion, and either orange bell pepper or carrot.  The orange-colored pieces were so small that neither Peggy nor I could decide which it was – so I’m going with orange bell pepper since I don’t care for carrots. I’m also adding diced mushrooms, just ’cause I want to.

soup vegetalbes

I’m posting the recipe this morning but I may come back and tweak it after Peggy gets over here and tries it.

Get over here, girl!

If tweaking is done, I’ll put any additions or changes in red print… stay tuned.

Peggy never did make it over to try the soup, but my boys and I decided it was too thick. Add another can of coconut milk or vegetable broth to thin it out to your liking. I used more coconut milk and then needed to add more curry paste as well.  I’ve made those changes in the recipe below.

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July 25, 2013   5 Comments

BeauMac’s Polenta-Pistachio Cake

Polenta-Pistachio Cake with Zinfandel Syrup

On Monday, Chef Beau MacMillan from Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain was the guest instructor at Les Gourmettes. The class and the menu were outstanding. This dessert was the crowning glory. Beau made a dense, not too sweet, polenta-pistachio cake, topped with olive oil cured strawberries and drizzled with a winning zinfandel-dried cherry syrup. Out of this world!

Since he brought pre-made individual cakes, I was the happy recipient of the cake batter he demonstrated for the class. My boys will be so happy with their dessert this coming weekend!

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May 1, 2013   1 Comment


For those of you who are over, let’s say 35, do you remember way back in the 80’s when one of the most popular appetizers in just about every hip eatery was Deep-Fried Mushrooms and Zucchini?

Those were the days, weren’t they?


Magical Days.

Wonderfully magical, I tell you!

Every weekend at happy hour, we’d waltz into Lunt Avenue Marble Club and eat a huge platter of those crunchy delights. Dipping them into a creamy white dipping sauce …  and not gain a pound!

And at that heavenly happy hour, you could order 2 for 1 cocktails for three bucks and the waitress would deliver both drinks to your table at the same time. Sometimes you’d order your second round before you finished your first, and you’d have four drinks sitting in front of you. At the same time!

Honestly kids, that is not a dream! It used to happen.

The part about not gaining a pound is true too. It may have had a little tiny bit to do with my 20 something metabolism … I miss those days.

I miss Deep-Fried Mushrooms and Zucchini.

I really miss my metabolism!

I miss it all so much that I tried to bring it back for a remix.

These days, just looking at a platter of Deep-Fried Mushrooms and Zucchini would cause me to instantly gain 10, maybe 20 pounds. So, I gave the zucchini a “makeover” – just to see if I could recapture at least a little slice of the glory days.

As far as makeovers go – this was a major fail! As far as your basic low-cal, low-fat, low-cholesterol makeover – it was a fine.

These zucchini rounds are NOTHING like the glory days zucchini, but they are an OK side dish. With that ringing endorsement, I’m sure you’re going to want to run into the kitchen and whip up a batch or two.

I miss the Magical Days!

I used diet cheese puffs for the yellow zucchini and diet honey mustard pretzels for the green zucchini. The cheese puff zucchini was disgusting! I’m only mentioning it because it is shown in the photos. Otherwise I would prefer to forget it completely!

The pretzel variety was tasty … as tasty as diet baked zucchini can be when you are really wishing you were at Lunt Avenue with four cocktails in front of you.

For those of you who still own a 20 something metabolism or are willing to throw caution to the wind… the original recipe for LAMC Deep-Fried Mushrooms and Zucchini is at the end of the post. If you make it, do not let me know. It will only serve to make me feel sad.

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April 23, 2013   3 Comments

salty sow

For years there was a terrible Chinese all-you-can-eat restaurant not far from our home on Cactus Road. I scoffed at it each time I drove by, wondering how such an awful place could stay in business for such a long time.


Then one day, last month, I drove by and if by glorious magic, it was gone! In its place stood a new intriguing looking eatery called Salty Sow, with the subtitle Swine+Wine+Beer.


Sounds like a kingdom of bacon, count me in!


Before I got around to making a reservation, our neighborhood Birthday Girls Group scheduled lunch there for Amy’s birthday. Yay!


Yay, because birthday lunches are fun…


…and yay, excited to go to a new place…


… with good friends!


I didn’t take photos of all the food, that would be tacky… just of mine, Amy’s and Robyne’s, who were sitting next to and across from me. Very discrete!


The Birthday Girl had the the Pig Panini, which she thoroughly enjoyed.


Robyne had Open Faced BLT with Egg.


I had the Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad – delicious!

Connor and I ordered take out from the Salty Sow on Saturday night.

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April 8, 2013   8 Comments

weekend update


I made myself smile after I typed that heading. Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update has always been one of my favorite sketches on SNL. It is the show’s longest running recurring sketch and has some memorable anchors, from the original, Chevy Chase, to the current, Seth Meyers. I especially loved Jane Curtain and more recently have enjoyed when Tina Fey and/or Amy Poehler were paired with Meyers.

But I digress, this isn’t about SNL, but rather my own weekend happenings.

Saturday’s activity could have been a SNL sketch. It involved an 81 year old man, my dad, who will be 82 on April 18th, myself, and my 21 year old son, Connor. The humorous part would have been watching us try to move a large, bulky, very heavy, double recliner La-Z-Boy loveseat from the bed of my dad’s truck and into his condo.

Just thinking about how it must have looked makes me wish there was a surveillance camera in the area filming us – it would be hilarious to watch back! We struggled every inch to get that monster in the house. We first stood it up on end atop a large piece of carpeting and intended to drag/push it along the narrow walkway that leads to the front door. It would not budge.


It was too heavy to pick up, so we ended up just flipping it lengthwise, from end to end until we reach the “L” turn in the sidewalk that is near the door. There, we struggled to get it around the corner. When we finally reached the door, I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo of Connor leaning his head on the recliner. We squeezed it through the door and through the even more narrow entry and finally got it into place. I hooked up the electric connectors (the recliner is electric, not lever-operated) and my guys took their well-deserved rest in the beast!

cafe bink sign

Sunday was much more relaxed and fun. I was invited to an event honoring my dear friend, mentor and colleague, Barbara Pool Fenzl.

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March 19, 2013   3 Comments

muffin “almost there”

Here is a quote from yesterday’s post:

“So back to the drawing board. I hope to have it down by tomorrow and post the recipe and my success.”

craftsman and wolves sign

What I hoped to have down was the recipe for “The Rebel Within” from Craftsman & Wolves, a restaurant in San Francisco.  “The Rebel Within” is a buttery, cheesy, sausage flecked muffin with a soft-cooked egg in the center. The egg yolk in the muffin should be soft and runny with the oozing yolk dripping like liquid gold onto the plate.


The muffin is named after a Hank Williams III song. Williams is the grandson of the legendary Hank Williams and the son of Hank Williams, Jr.

So, the big question is… did I get it right? Was I successful? Was the liquid gold running onto my plate?  No. No. and No!

I really wanted to name this post “Muffin Extraordinaire” but it’s honestly only “Muffin Almost There.”


I developed the recipe by using the blueprint of the muffin that I found on the restaurant’s website. It’s a tongue-in-cheek blueprint with a hint of what ingredients to use, but it has no real portions. At least it gave me a starting point.

First, I tried soft poaching the eggs for 3 minutes in simmering water and then shocking the cooked eggs in ice water, as with THIS method. But once the muffins were baked, the yolks were firm, not even close to runny.

The second go-round, I tried only poaching three of the eggs for one minute and shocking them in the ice water. I cracked the remaining three eggs directly into the bottom layer of batter in the muffin tin.

I imagined that the 1-minute poached eggs would work and that the raw eggs would run all over the place and make a mess.

Once the muffins were baked, I anxiously cut into one of each type of muffin. The result? Exactly the same as the first time around. The yolks were cooked firm. The raw eggs did not run and make a mess, as I anticipated, they were firm right in the center of the muffin, just as the poached eggs were.

Even though the yolks didn’t turn out as I had hoped, I am going to share the recipe I developed while trying to get it right, because even without runny yolks, the muffin is AMAZING! Wonderfully scrumptious. Somehow the muffin is dense, yet still fluffy and fabulously flavorful.

Instead of naming my version “The Rebel Within” I shall name mine “The Easter Egg Within.”

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January 31, 2013   9 Comments

orthopedics, San Fran, and runny yolks


The day after returning from San Francisco, I had a follow-up appointment at the orthopedics office. The x-rays showed that I am completely healed and may resume all activities, unrestricted. Yay – take that you stupid extension ladder!


I had THE best time with Marissa in the City by the Bay. We shopped, we ate, we treated ourselves to a mani/pedi, we ate, we shopped some more, and we ate…

pot & Pantry storefront

One of the stores we went to was Pot & Pantry on the corner of Guerrero and 18th Streets.


It’s an adorable little store that is deliberately designed to feel as if you’re shopping in a friend’s kitchen. Customers can buy, sell, or trade new and gently used kitchenware. It’s mostly new with a bit of vintage here and there.

I bought a couple little things, big surprise!


While checking out, I noticed little postcard-sized cards that had lovely watercolors of food on them.

The rebel within C&W

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January 30, 2013   2 Comments

lemon pizza?

The idea for this pizza came from the Corkscrew Cafe in Carmel Valley, California.

I’ve never been there. I  have never had their pizza, but as you well know, I have Meyer lemons… so it is this pizza that I made!

Meyer Lemon Pizza

I read the description on the menu, and the plethora of raves about it on Yelp, and I came up with my own Meyer Lemon Pizza.

Are you worried that you may not like this pizza because of the full lemon slices on there? Peel and all! Please don’t be. Meyer lemon peel is thinner and sweeter and it is delicious!

In addition, just yesterday, my friend, Amy (Amy’s Famous Taco Soup) sent me an email with all kinds of amazing information about lemon peels.

Did you know that lemon peels contain as much as 10 times more vitamins than the lemon juice itself? Lemon peels eradicate toxic elements in the body. The peel is an antimicrobial agent that fights against bacterial infections and fungi, effective against internal parasites and worms, it regulates blood pressure, and is an antidepressant, combats stress and nervous disorders. And according to the email Amy sent me, lemon kills cancer cells and is 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy.

Now, I haven’t done an ounce of research to back up any of the information in that email, it could be “internet truth.”  But if even 1/10th of that is true… well get out there and eat your lemons, peels and all… and start with this pizza!

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January 23, 2013   2 Comments

frozen tundra


In case you’re not local and just in case you haven’t heard – we’ve been freezing here in the desert this past week.

Literally freezing.
It’s not right.
This is the desert!
That land of saguaro cactus and yucca, not ice and snow!


Winter is our prime time! It’s what we live for, perfect weather! Not freezing temps that damage our desert loving plants. (Yes, those are sheets covering plants and trees in my backyard.)

We aren’t supposed to be moaning and groaning about the weather now, that’s what we have 6 months of summer for … 115+ degree days … that’s our moaning and groaning time.

small portion

I am not happy! Not happy because it forced me to get out and try to pick as many of my Meyer lemons as I possibly could pick in one day. I wasn’t able to get them all. Close, but not all. The photo above represents about 1/4 of the crop I got off the tree.

My dad took home a full crate plus a full shopping bag.


The tree was the most prolific it has ever been. Here is what it looked like on Thanksgiving day.

so many meyers

So many lemons, that they were laying on the ground, still attached to the tree. The weight of them brought them down that far.

In late November and early December, I picked all the low lemons and took several bags to Les Gourmettes, to share with the teachers and students there.

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January 16, 2013   5 Comments