Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Lisa and Louis Harvest Calabrian Beans

Last night I saw my friend Lisa Anne tending bar at the Armand Hammer Museum and she gave me the long-awaited news that her Calabrian Beans are now being harvested for seed.  Regular readers of this site know that her husband Louis has a strict policy of never sharing the fresh beans, but they WILL share the dried beans to be planted next year.
Louis and Lisa's Calabrian beans drying on the vine, September 19, 2010.  Photo courtesy of  Lisa Anne Auerbach.
I am hopeful that I will be soon be receiving a seed packet of these magical beans so that I can attempt to grow Calabrian beans in my own garden.  For a full report on the dried bean harvest, check out Lisa's blog Steal This Sweater.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Drunken Monk Wins Third Place!

I've just heard the news that Jared's "Drunken Monk" has been awarded third place in the Pacific Brew Cup's Belgian Golden Ale category.  Congratulations, Jared!

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of trying four of Jared's dark bottled beers, including "Toastmaster" (a rye pale ale), "Divine Intervention" (a Belgian strong ale), a yet-to-be-named chili-chocolate brown ale, and an Imperial Stout.  Sadly, I have not yet tried the award-winning Drunken Monk, but I hope that I will soon have the opportunity to report on Jared's latest success.
Beer Tasting with Jared, "Toastmaster" and "Divine Intervention" gone, chili-chocolate beer on it's way, Sept. 25, 2010.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Does Anyone Know a Valencia When They See One?

An orange from our tree, July 2010.  

Do recognize this orange?  If so, you can help me resolve a family dispute.  My husband says the orange tree in our backyard is a Valencia, but I'm not so sure.  The Valencia oranges I get at the farmer's market are deliciously sweet, which is something I can't say about our oranges.  Of course, I know very little about oranges and my husband grew up in California, so he should know more about oranges than I do.  

Our backyard neighbor Mary Rose says she remembers that the oranges from our tree were very sweet and that they're just out of season now.  I'm sure that's true, but I didn't have a sweet one all winter.  Even when the farmer's market was overflowing with Valencia's, our oranges were tart.  We now have small green oranges growing alongside the older orange ones, so I know the "ripe" oranges on the tree are from last season.  But I still wonder... can an orange tree go bad?
Old and new oranges on our tree, Summer 2010.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Daniel's Pork Stew with Guajes, Puebla Style

Daniel's pork stew with guajes, Puebla style, Sept. 2010.

In a previous Heirloom Food column, I reported on my friend Daniel's guajes harvest.  Today I want to give you part 2 of that report... eating the guajes!  Daniel was generous enough to share the recipe and to provide background information on guajes, as well as an account of how he started growing and cooking with guajes.  So without further ado, I turn the blog over to guest columnist Daniel Marlos, aka The Bug Man

Editor's Note: My father and I joined Daniel for a meal of Pork Stew with Guajes a few days ago, and we both thought the stew was fantastic.  I took the photos that appear with Daniel's column on that day and I look forward to trying this recipe again, although sadly I will probably make it without the guajes.

Pork Stew with Guajes, Puebla Style
By Daniel Marlos (as learned from Pedro José Lopez)

I learned to cook this savory pork stew by watching José, who grew up in the Mexican state of Puebla, but since he didn’t really leave a recipe nor did the family members he watched preparing the meal, I cannot vouch for the authenticity.   Additionally, exact quantities often didn’t get measured by José or his family, and I have continued that tradition.  I cook this pork stew now in the late summer when the Guajes ripen on my trees and using the tomatoes and jalapeños from the garden.

Guajes are the pods from a
Leucaena tree and it is sometimes possible to find them in Mexican markets, but one can never depend upon their availability.  One summer, many years ago, José bought the pods in a Highland Park, Los Angeles market and dried a few of the pods.   Later, he planted a few of the seeds in pots.  After they sprouted, he planted them in the ground in the back yard, and those trees were the only things he ever planted in the garden.  Guajes are indigenous to the state of Puebla, and preparing food with the subtly garlicky seeds probably made José nostalgic for home the same way that eating them now makes me nostalgic for his cooking.

Guajes are time-consuming to clean.  When the pods are ready, they must be split apart and the tiny green seeds are removed.  Start with a bunch of ripe Guajes pods and remove the seeds, discarding any that are brown or hosting the grub of a weevil.  You should have about a cup of seeds when you are finished.

Pork Stew with Guajes, Puebla Style

Pork Stew on Daniel's stove (in Martha Stewart cast-iron pot), Sept. 2010.

Ingredients for Pork Stew
  • 2 pounds of pork stew meat (trocitos de Puerco)
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • salt to taste (optional)
  • Enough water to cover pork in stew pot
Pork for stew should be boiled for several hours to ensure that it is tender.  I use a Martha Stewart 7 quart enamel covered, cast iron Dutch oven, but any stew pot should suffice.  The pork should be a single layer in the bottom of the pot. Cover the pork with about an inch of water and boil for several hours.  When the pork is tender, much of the water should have boiled away and the tops of the chunks of pork should be just breaking the surface of the water.  Add more water if needed.

Ingredients for Guajes Salsa
  • 3 Jalapeños
  • 6 tomatoes
  • I cup of cleaned guajes seeds toasted
  • Water to puree
  • Salt to taste
While the pork is cooking, prepare the salsa.  The salsa is a basic jalapeño and tomato salsa to which the guajes are added.  The exact ratio of jalapeños to tomatoes is dependant upon the heat of the peppers and the size of the tomatoes and the palette of the diners.  There are no rules, but an approximate ratio of two tomatoes to one pepper is a good place to start.

Boil the jalapeños and tomatoes together until the skins on the tomatoes split.  Let cool in the water.  Meanwhile toast the guajes.  I use a dry cast iron skillet over a medium heat.  The guajes will swell and begin to pop, indicating that they are ready.  Be careful not to char them too much, though slight charring will add a smoky flavor.  Remove stems from jalapeños and skin the tomatoes.  Put jalapeños, tomatoes and guajes in the blender and puree with enough water to make a thick salsa.  Some guajes seeds will remain whole.  Add the salsa to the boiled pork and cook covered over medium to low heat another hour.   Serve over Spanish rice with steamed zucchini and tortillas.

Daniel's Spanish Rice, September 2010.
Ingredients for Spanish Rice
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 tablespoon corn oil
  • diced tomatoes
  • one or two ears of corn kernels cut from the cob
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups water
Brown the rice in oil in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  When the rice is brown, add the diced tomatoes which will sizzle.  Add corn kernels, cumin, salt and water. Bring to a boil and stir. Reduce heat and cook covered until water is absorbed and rice is tender.

Traditional Side Dishes
  • Steamed Zucchini or Green Beans
  • Corn tortillas, warmed in cast iron skillet
Just before serving the meal, steam zucchini slices or green beans.  Serve pork stew over rice in a bowl and top with steamed vegetables.  Enjoy with corn tortillas.

This dish may be prepared without the guajes by adding a few cloves of garlic to the boiling pork. It is not the same, but it is nonetheless delicious.  Beef or Chicken may also be substituted for the pork.

Daniel's Italian zucchini, seeds provided by Luca Loffredo, September 2010.
Editor's Note:  Daniel also grows his own peppers, tomatoes and zucchini.  The zucchini is an Italian variety started from seed given to Daniel by Luca Loffredo, a wonderful chef and photographer (who also happened to take my profile photo for this blog.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Harvesting Guajes with Daniel

Daniel harvests guajes pods in his backyard, September 2010.
Heavily pruned Leucaena tree in Daniel's upper yard.
My friend Daniel recently invited me over to his house to watch him harvest guajes.  What are guajes?  they're the seed pods from a Leucaena tree, or so Daniel tells me.  I'd never heard of guajes before this conversation, but I'd seen the trees in Daniel's yard many times without giving them a second glance.  This might sound unlikely unless you've seen Daniel's yard, which is jam-packed with fruit trees and vegetation of all sorts.  Turns out, Daniel has several Leucaena trees on his property and I just hadn't noticed them before.

Guajes are indigenous to the Mexican state of Puebla, but a number of years ago Daniel's partner José started guajes trees from seed and eventually planted them in their backyard.  José was a great cook and he used the guajes seeds to make salsa, as his family did in Puebla.

I'd never eaten guajes, which is surprising because Daniel is usually quick to invite his friends over to share his garden's bounty.  Now that I know more about guajes, I can see why.  It takes a lot of effort to harvest guajes seeds and they are only in season for a short period of time.  
Leucaena tree in Daniel's lower yard, 2010.
When I arrived at Daniel's house to watch the guajes harvest, he was already shelling pods on his front porch, so I took a few photos to make sure I didn't miss the action.  Daniel is an enthusiastic gardener, and for all I knew, these were the only guajes pods that needed to be shelled.  Luckily, Daniel was just thinking ahead and wanted to get a large bowl of them shelled so we didn't spend hours shelling guajes together.

Guajes aren't difficult to shell, it's just a somewhat time-consuming process.  The seeds are small and it takes a lot of them to make a single recipe of salsa.  I was excited about trying guajes for the first time, but Daniel informed me that harvesting guajes and cooking with them were best done on two separate days.  (Keep your eyes open for Part 2 of this report in the next day or two.)  Knowing that I'd have to wait to try the guajes, I happily chatted with Daniel and took photos while he shelled the pods.  

Shelling guajes is much like shelling any bean, and I've shelled a few beans in my day.  Like all legumes, guajes pods can be split into two halves and it is only the guajes seeds that are edible.  Shelling guajes isn't difficult, but it does require a certain amount of patience.

Daniel shells guajes, September 2010.
Daniel told me that it takes about an hour and a half to shell enough guajes to make one batch of salsa.  How much is that?  About a cup... or as many as you can shell before you get sick of it.  I tried shelling a few guajes, but it was much more fun to take photos of the process.  Daniel is also a potter and he shelled his guajes seeds into a beautiful glazed bowl he made last year.  (I should probably refer to Daniel as a ceramacist, but I suspect he would prefer the term "potter".)  In any case, Daniel's homemade bowl was the perfect backdrop for my guajes photos.  Daniel is not only an accomplished photographer, potter, and gardener-- turns out he's a pretty good stylist when he feels like it!
Daniel shells guajes into his handmade red ceramic bowl, Sept. 2010.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Jared's Home-Brewed Pale Ale GONE!

Blogger tries Jared's home-brew during her original visit to watch the brewing of Jared's Pale Ale.
The Set-Up: Blogger watches neighbor Jared make a batch of Pale Ale for her Heirloom Food Report:  Brewing Beer With Jared.  Jared promises to have blogger over to try the beer when it's ready.

Inciting Incident:  Swamped with family commitments, harried blogger forgets tentative plan and spends the weekend in a whirlwind of laundry and suitcase packing.

Confrontation:  Keg is tapped.  Jared discovers that beer is delicious and decides to submit it to competition.  Result:  Large amount of beer disappears from keg.   Jared and his lovely wife Amy take a growler of beer to a party.  Result:  More beer sucked from keg.  During the following week, Jared and Amy enjoy a glass of beer while watching the sun set over the western sky each night.  Result:  One sad evening the following week, empty keg spits at Jared and Amy.  Darkness falls.

Climax:  Amy informs harried blogger that keg is kicked.  Blogger is devastated.  

Resolution:  Amy promises harried blogger that Jared's Pale Ale is so popular that she's sure Jared will be adding it to his regular brewing rotation.  Harried blogger consoles herself with the fact that the sun will soon shine again.  In the meantime, she comforts herself by reading the recipe for Jared's Pale Ale and longs for a chance to sit on Jared and Amy's porch and drink to long California sunsets. 

Jared's Pale Ale
Batch Size: 5 gallons
O.G.: 1.052
IBU: 55

Grain (mash at 152 degrees for 1 hour):
8.5 lb 2-row pale malt
.75 lb Crystal 40 malt
.25 lb Crystal 60 malt
.5 lb Victory malt

1.2 oz Chinook, First Wort Hops
.25 oz Centennial, boil 60 min
.75 oz Centennial, 30 min
.5 oz Cascade, 30 min
1 oz Cascade, 0 min
2 oz Cascade (homegrown), dry hop

Dechlorinated LA tap water with 7g Calcium Sulfate (food grade gypsum) added

Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Brewing Beer with Jared

My neighbor Jared brews his own beer.  It’s not beer from a pre-packaged kit either.  Not that I have anything against hobby kits.  In fact, I love hobby kits because they can give a jump-start to any project you might not otherwise take on.  Home brewing kits are growing in popularity and this may be a sign of the growing interest in “real” food you make yourself.  But Jared’s beer is “realer” than a kit.  He’s built and perfected his current brewing set-up over a period of several years, adding new elements and coming up with solutions for problems as they inevitably present themselves.  Jared has the mind of an inventor and he does EVERYTHING by hand.
Jared heats up water in his beer-brewing contraption.
Jared’s interest in beer is deep and intense.  He likes particular kinds of beer that you can’t buy in the corner liquor store.  He’s been brewing beer for five years, and when I asked him if he’d ever consider brewing beer commercially,  he just shook his head.  Jared has a keen appreciation for beer and likes to give classic recipes his own twist.  But there are drawbacks to the idea of perfecting a recipe that produces a unique flavor within the framework of a traditional formula.  First, it takes too much time and labor for such a beer to ever be profitable.  And perhaps more importantly, Jared recognizes a tragic reality of the beer-drinking world—that consumers want, and in fact expect, all beer with the same label to taste exactly the same from bottle to bottle and year to year.  Jared brings up the excellent point that wine-production revolves around the idea that differences in growing conditions each season produce subtle variations in wine that wine connoisseurs appreciate and enjoy.  Beer, on the other hand, is always supposed to taste the same.  And this takes the fun out of the process for Jared, who has a keen appreciation for the ways in which weather, ingredients, and process can create delicious variations from a single recipe.   Jared is aware that he’d never make money producing beer this way, so he does it for love.  This is my definition of an Heirloom Food, although beer may not have been in Jared’s family history.

Jared is SO committed to producing beer that he grows his own hops.  Until I talked to Jared, I had never thought about where hops come from.  Apparently, most hops in the U.S. come from Oregon.  Unless you’re Jared.  Then your hops come from the tiny garden in your own front yard.

Jared told me that there was a massive hops shortage several years ago and he had time a hard time finding his favorite kind of hops.  The hops he did buy were three to four times more expensive than usual.  But Jared was not to be deterred.  He told me he didn't have too many hobbies and he wasn't going to let something like a hops shortage keep him from his quest to brew beer.  I respect this kind of commitment and I feel this way about a number of foods myself.  To me, the best part about Jared deciding to grow his own hops is that he didn't do it out of food snobbery or fetishism, but because of a very practical need.  He needed hops, so he decided to grow them.

On a recent Saturday, Jared invited me over to watch him brew beer.  I arrived at 9 am and Jared handed me a cup of coffee and a delicious homemade peanut butter cookie.  I felt a little guilty knowing that my husband had been up since 4 am and was at that moment dealing with cranky kids, while I was lounging around eating a yummy snack and waiting for water to boil… literally.  Boiling water is the first step in the beer-brewing process and it takes about an hour to boil enough water to brew a batch of beer.  Life was good.  And I was a lucky woman to have married a man who would support this division of labor.
Jared harvests hops, July 2010.

While we waited for the water to boil, Jared began to harvest hops.  There is a lot about hops I didn’t know.  It takes at least three years before hops plants bear fruit and this is the first year that Jared has been able to harvest hops from his own garden.  I've never seen hops grow before and I didn't know they grew on a vine.  I didn't know that that they started out green, or that they had such a vibrant, fresh smell.  I didn't know that they are part of the cannabis family.  Hops are a lot more interesting than I realized.  

Jared says that hops don't tend to grow very well in  Southern California because they need a lot of daylight and that they grow best in places like the Pacific Northwest and Northern Europe, where the days are longest.  He also insists that his hops DIDN'T do well this season, and cites the fact that only one out of four plants produced hops.  But looking at the plant that DID produce hops, it's clear that Jared is doing something right.  His garden plot sits on a little hill that's in full sun from dawn to dusk, giving the hops the chance to soak up every bit of daylight.  I think it must be the combination of the garden's microclimate and the cloudless skies of a SoCal summer that makes Jared's hops grow so well.  That, and the fact that Jared gives them such careful attention.  I know it sounds kooky, but I think these hops appreciate the lavish treatment they receive from Jared and they grow to show their appreciation.  
Hops ready to harvest in Jared's garden, July 2010.

Once Jared harvested the hops, I thought he'd toss them into the batch of beer he was brewing.  But hops are not normally used fresh.  They have to be dried in the sun for a day or two, at least for India Pale Ale, the kind of beer Jared was brewing the day I visited.  According to Jared, the British invented the technique of "dry hopping", which is adding hops to beer in the cask or keg after it has been fermented.  This kept the beer fresh longer and allowed beer to survive the voyage to India via sailing ship.  Dried hops give an extra blast of hop aroma in the beer, and although not every batch of beer is "dry hopped", Jared doesn't like the flavor of using green hops.  He says it's "kinda grassy".  I've never had green hops in beer, at least not to my knowledge, but Jared doesn't make it sound very appealing.  

Jared keeps his home-grown sun-dried hops in the freezer, ready for use.  With the amount of hops he harvested on the day I visited, Jared will be able to make several batches of beer.  And he'll harvest hops a few more times before the end of the season.  It will be interesting to find out what his total production for season will be, and you can be sure that I'll file a report when I find out.  
Hops in Jared's freezer, August, 2010.

It takes commitment to make beer.  Three years to grow hops.  A few days to to dry them.  And two more weeks to brew, ferment, and bottle the beer.  But when Jared poured me a frothy glass of his last batch – a heady “California Steam Ale” – and we drank it together at 10 in the morning… I knew this was the kind of commitment to heirloom food I could get behind.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fantastic Food Show at LACMA

If you haven't seen EATLACMA yet, it's time to go.  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is currently showing an incredible exhibition by Fallen Fruit, a collaboration between David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young, along with LACMA curator Michele Urton.  This show is great for many reasons, but mostly because it's so sneaky.  The works are all over the grounds and events occur over a year-long period.  Because they're scattered throughout the museum and mixed in with other collections, they kind of sneak up on you.  In a good way.  Sadly, the year of Fallen Fruit is ending on November 11th so you don't have much time left to see it.

I went with my family over the weekend and perhaps the best endorsement I can give the show is to say that my 4 year-old insisted on having her own copy of the exhibition flyer and used the "Public Fruit Wallpaper" as a map to guide us through the museum.  The wallpaper is a trellis-like pattern of mixed citrus fruit photographed in various stages of decomposition on a background that shifts from sky blue to golden yellow.  Sound crazy?  A bit, but it's also lovely.  I'd wallpaper a room with it in a heartbeat.  One wall of the exhibition in the Ahmanson Building is covered with it and it looks amazing.  And I can see why my daughter loves it, although I must admit it wasn't especially helpful as a map.  (Of course, there was a real map on the other side so we just snagged our own copy while pretending to let our daughter lead the way.)

Since seeing the show, my daughter has also used the "wallpaper" side of the flyer as a maze, a seat cushion, and a head-rest.  And she's been very territorial when she sees me looking at my copy.  When I'm not looking at the wallpaper (if for instance, I'm actually trying to read about related events) she tells me I'm doing it wrong and flips it over so I'm looking at the wallpaper again.  Hilarious.

The exhibition had two real stand-outs for me.  The first was The Fruit of LACMA, a collection of food-related paintings and photographs culled from the museum's permanent collection.  It was located just inside the door of the Ahmanson Building on the ground level, tucked into a corner on the right-hand side.  The works cover three walls of the space and are mounted salon-style, one on top of the other.  They're all by heavy-hitters.  And as I mentioned, the fourth wall is covered with the Public Fruit Wallpaper.  (I'd love to get the backstory on the source of the "public fruit" photographed for the wallpaper.  I'm sure it's a good one.)

The following is a  reconstructed transcript of my internal-and-external monologue as I tried to view the exhibition while being spun in a circle by my impatient daughter who wanted to go put her new "map" to use.  "Ooohhh... an Edward Weston... haven't seen the bananas before!  Wait... was that a Callis over there?  Oh, geez... could you slow down for a minute?  Lichtenstein still-life.  Check.  Ahhh.... Steichen.  Seriously, kid, you gotta see this.  THIS is an apple being blown up by a bullet.  Isn't that cool?!!  Mommy talks about that photo with her students!  Gotta remember to tell them it's here and they should see it in the flesh.  Yea, yea, we'll get going.  Where did you want to go next?..."

We separated for a while so I could look at a few things in peace, but on the way to reconnect, I discovered the charming and fragrant artist project "Promiscuous Production:  Breeding is Bittersweet" by The National Bitter Melon Council.  What I saw was a large arbor covered in melon vines, large enough to walk through and explore.  It smelled amazing and I couldn't wait to show it off to my family.  The National Bitter Melon Council tried, successfully, to breed a new kind of melon which had both sweet and bitter components .  There were countless melons hanging from the vines and each piece of hybrid fruit was lovingly protected in what seemed to be a black pantyhose sack.  (I'm sure there's a more graceful way to describe this, but that's as close as I can get.)  We had a great time running back and forth and playing hide and seek and it was a great end to our trip.

The best part of this exhibition is that it functions on many levels... kids' entertainment, a wake-up call for the senses (especially sight and smell), and an immersive experience for those who enjoy conceptual art.  I know there were also associated food events, but I'm sad to report that I missed the jam-making.  I'm hoping there will be more to eat during the "Let Them Eat LACM" on November 7th!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Official Sunday Dinner Questionnaire- Louis Marchesano

I am thrilled to announce our newest feature column... The Official Sunday Dinner Questionnaire.  And to get the ball rolling, we have the incomparable Louis Marchesano responding.  In addition to being a great cook and food-lover, Louis is the curator of prints and drawings at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, CA.  For a glimpse of what Louis does doing his work-day, check out this interview regarding his most recent project Printing in the Grand Manner:  Charles Le Brun and Monumental Prints in the Age of Louis XIV.  Louis and his wife Lisa Anne Auerbach were also recently featured in our Heirloom Foods column: "Sunday Dinner with Lisa and Louis".  Thank you, Louis, for starting us off with such a passionate response.
Rosemary and Calabrian bean plants take over the front yard at the home of Louis Marchesano and
Lisa Anne Auerbach, Summer 2010.

1. What is your favorite food to eat? Why?
You know I am of Italian descent and I hate to carry on the stereoptypes which is why I am not going to say Pizza. Figs. They are ripening just now and I love to get up in the morning, go outside,  pick figs, eat them, close my eyes and think of Calabria and my father who would go to farms and steal as many as he could from orchards, usually those owned by his father. I have green Genoas in the front garden and a dark variety in the back. 

2. What is your favorite food to cook? Why?
You know I'm of Italian descent.... Tadgiareii (or Tagliatelle). This evening I made this pasta from scratch (1 egg for 1 cup of flour; pinch salt, dab olive oil) with a simple sauce of tomatoes from my garden. This pasta is delicate and silky. There's a lot of  dry flour (to keep it from sticking) so when you drop the little bundles of pasta into the boiling  water they dissappear for a moment under whirlpools of  starch and then, Presto, the broad but thin strands float to the surface ready to eat in a moment.  A week after I met Lisa Auerbach, we made this pasta together and, Presto!, a year later we got hitched...

3. Who or what is your greatest culinary influence? Why is he/she/it an inspiration? 

You know I'm of Italian descent and I really hate the idea of living the stereotype, but I have to say it's my mother, who is alive and well near Toronto. It really is. She never made a hollywood production out of preparing the food, at least not in the same way that I do. When I make tadgiareii (see 2 above) I expect Lisa or you or anyone to go ape nuts and if things like polite conversation get in the way of focusing on the food I always insist on changing the topic. The other thing that Maria is really good at is throwing stuff together. For homemade pasta (1. above), I never saw Maria measure anything. I'm not sure she owns a measuring spoon or cup, come to think of it.

4. What is your favorite kitchen utensil? Why?
The fork.

5. What did you eat for dinner this past Sunday?
See 2 above. We also had a green salad with green and red leaf lettuces and deer tongue lettuce. A tomatoe salad with fresh calabrian pepper, parsely, garlic.

6. When you were growing up, did you eat Sunday dinner or another meal that brought friends and family together on a regular basis? If so, what you you eat?
Yes. It was usually a roast beef of  some sort with mashed potatoes, peas, and believe it or not white sliced bread (which we all thought was really exotic and a good gesture to show the world that we had assimilated). My father is a meat wholesaler, so the roasts we ate had been aging in the cooler for about 3 weeks, which made them as tender as  an angel's bum.

7. Do you have a garden? If so, what do you grow in it?
I have two, one of which is featured in Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates (see the double-page spread in full colour in the second edition). Figs (see 1 above). Tomatoes of various varieties including something called an Old German; Pippi alla udia (aka. Calabrian pepper); Vaianneii (settembrai): a calabrian bean that can be eaten as a kind of broad bean or as a seed; parsley and basil and cilantro and oregano. I have a lot of native plants to attract beneficial insects which means that I am a yuppie.

8. What is your ultimate food fantasy?
Not to have to sweat when I think about smuggling homemade salami into the country. This fantasy has come true because you can now bring cured meats into the USA and it's all legal  like.

9. If you could choose to have any person living or dead prepare a meal for you, who would it be? What would you want to eat?
Susan, you know I am of Italian descent and you know my answer (see three above). 

10. Fill in the blank: "The most important element of a good meal is ______." 

Homemade Lisa-- a fabulous cook of all food Italian, like Kale and Potatoes, bean dishes of all sorts, bread and pane duro (a calabrian hard bread) and much much more. 
Lisa Anne Auerbach shows off a dish of beans and potatoes in front of Calabrian bean stalks
growing in the front yard, Summer 2010.