Oct 082013
 

Carpaccio from bibberche.com

First time I tasted carpaccio was at an upscale Italian restaurant in one of the western suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, our home town for more than a decade. It was presented on a big, narrow, cream-colored oval plate, and it looked stunning; thin, red pieces of beef tenderloin, perky dark green arugula, curlicues of shaved parmigiano, yellow-green comas of extra virgin olive oil, and dark-brown droplets of balsamico painted a picture that reminded me of Caravaggio and his beautiful contrasts.

I was seduced by its clean, simple taste from the first slender bite. Of course, those were the days of promises, when the tears were easily hidden in a glass of good Sicilian Primitivo and the future always overrode the present. But the flavor of carpaccio was not emphasized by euphoria and hope; it was truly good and memorable.

Contrary to what some members of my family may think, I am a geek, and I started researching carpaccio, wondering if I could make it at home, satisfying my inner hedonist as well as my inner frugal self. What I found out did not surprise me: the most important thing is ensuring the superb quality of each ingredient.

From that day on, I stopped ordering carpaccio in restaurants. I mastered the technique of preparing it myself, and it became my favorite starter for a dinner party, providing my guests were not of a squeamish and non-adventurous sort that eye everything not burned and charred as inedible.

Olives from bibberche.com

I buy my beef tenderloin at a local Persian store where the young Mexican butcher knows me well. I talk to him in my rudimentary Spanish, trying to practice as much as I can, even though he speaks perfect English. I tip him a dollar or two every time I buy something from his counter and he always brings me the best and the freshest cuts from the back of the store.

I splurged a long while ago on a bottle of thick, fragrant balsamic vinegar and I use it extremely sparingly for special occasions, treating it with more reverence than a bottle of VSOP Courvoisier. I purchase only the authentic, aged Parmigiano Reggiano which resides wrapped in luxurious layers of thick paper towels neatly enclosed in a ziploc bag.

When it comes to olive oil, I usually fall back to the old and familiar and anything that was produced in the Mediterranean will be more than sufficient to meet the standards (my standards have to do more with memories of sweet, hot nights spent under the olive tree branches in Croatia, Montenegro, and Italy, than with the intricate process of extracting the best olive oil).

This time, though, I abandoned my tried and true and used Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the first one in its category to receive the USDA Quality Monitored seal, which verifies the quality and purity of olive oil through rigorous government testing and reviews of production processes. It’s low in acid due to first pressing of great quality olives, fragrant and beautifully colored.

A big platter of cold beef sprinkled with briny cheese and bitter arugula, and dotted with sweet vinegar and robust olive oil made for a perfect repast on a day when the Santa Ana winds brought the heat back to southern California. I don’t have an ancient olive tree in my yard, but the smell of the ocean at twilight when the sun is dipping bellow the horizon is enough to send me back to those sultry Adriatic nights that will forever keep on bringing a smile to my face.

CARPACCIO

Ingredients:

  • Beef tenderloin
  • Aged parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar
  • arugula and/or other dark greens

Directions:

1. Wrap the meat in plastic and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

2. Unwrap and slice thinly against the grain with a sharp knife.

3. Place the pieces between two layer of plastic wrap and beat with a meat mallet until paper thin.

4. Layer the pieces of thin meat on a platter.

5. Scatter the greens on top.

6. Dot with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

7. Shave the cheese on top evenly.

8. Serve with a glass of hearty, Italian red wine (not necessarily Sicilian Primitivo)

Carpaccio from bibberche.com

Visit and like Pompeian Facebook page here.

Click here to get $1.00 off coupon for Pompeian Olive Oil.

Take a survey for a chance to get a $200.00 gift card.

Thank you Smiley360 for a complimentary bottle of Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Sep 182013
 

Greek Salad with Watermelon Cucumbers from bibberche.com

I planted seven heirloom tomato plants in April. They were all different shape, color, and size. I staked them, watered them, and watched them grow and bloom to be strong, healthy, and fragrant. Some of them took of faster and started producing a lot of soon-to-be ripe fruit. After five years of gardening withdrawals, my heart was atwitter with excitement. The neighbors were stopping by admiring my luscious plants and I already started imagining baskets  filled with red, orange, yellow, green, and striped tomatoes, still warm from the sun, decorating our kitchen counter.

One day I caught a snail eating a small tomato that just turned the right shade of red that morning. I picked it off and flung it across the fence into the street. I rummaged through the plants and found many more stuck to the leaves, probably resting and gathering the energy to attack the fruit as soon as the pale moon appeared in the sky. Visibly perturbed, I gathered them one by one and stepped on them, ignoring the disgusting slime that coated the soles of my shoes.

My Ohio Garden from bibberche.com

My tiny, but so rewarding Ohio garden

In a few days, my tomato plants started to lose their luster. They drooped, leaves curled and dried out, no matter how ardently I watered them in the morning and twilight. And then the holes around them started to appear. I would fill them in with fresh sod, and the next time I looked, there were new ones, deep, narrow, baring the roots. I wanted to keep on blaming the snails, but unless a gross mutation was involved, it seemed more probable that a rodent of some kind was responsible.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to find the culprit and I lost my tomato plants one by one. The neighbors extended their sympathy and offered their opinions on the origin of the damage. I was devastated. Sure, I harvested a few dozen of early bloomers, but nothing close to what I imagined. Yes, it was another summer sadly void of homegrown tomatoes.

Garden Tomatoes from bibberche.com

My summers in Serbia were marked by simple salads of tomatoes and onions, sometimes with crunchy cucumbers and crumbled cheese, served daily as an accompaniment to any dish. I start craving their familiar flavor in late May, resigned to wait a few weeks until the ripest, sweetest fruit appears. With a heavy heart, I pulled my desiccated remnants from the ground, and started making weekly pilgrimages to Torrance Farmers’ Market, where piles of heirloom tomatoes, albeit pretty pricey, waited for me. For summer is not summer without tomato salad.

According to the calendar, we are running out of summer days. But southern California climate ignores the arbitrary limits, which means we can wear white after Labor Day and we can eat summer salads until whenever. A few days ago I made a Greek salad to accompany my favorite roasted red peppers, spinach, and feta quiche I took to a picnic in a downtown LA park.

Watermelon Cucumbers from Melissa's Produce

I could not wait to use the cute, tiny watermelon cucumbers I received from Melissa’s Produce, one of the biggest fruits and vegetables distributor in the U.S. I like my mixed salads chopped in smaller bites, so I halved these lemony, crunchy treats and mixed them with ripe, juicy tomatoes, olives, red onions, roasted beets, pepperoncini, and feta cheese. A hefty pinch of coarse salt, some freshly ground pepper, and a few glugs of extra-virgin olive oil (thanks, George!) was all that was necessary.

All these different and complementary flavors came together in each bite and for a moment I forgot that the produce had not come from my garden. I was transported to the shores of my Adriatic instantly, if only for a brief moment, until Judd Nelson appeared on the big projector screen in “Breakfast Club” and my girls started screeching in delight. This was a memory-building evening, somewhat bitter-sweet, as I inevitably returned to my first viewing of the movie, to those innocent days when the world was brimming with promises just behind the horizon.

Greek Salad with Watermelon Cucumbers from bibberche.com

 

Greek Salad
Print

Recipe type: Salads
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
There is no lettuce in this salad, which is how most Mediterranean countries prefer their summer salads. The quantities are approximate.
Ingredients
  • 3-4 wine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • a handful of watermelon cucumbers (or 1 smaller regular cucumber, peeled)
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 3-4 pepperoncini peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut ionto rings
  • 1-2 roasted beets, cut into slices
  • a handful of olives
  • salt and pepper
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • about 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Instructions
  1. Mix all the vegetables gently.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Stir once more gently.
  5. Crumble the cheese on top.

 

Sep 132013
 

Ramen Burger from bibberche.com

I don’t like standing in lines. Not for a premiere movie tickets, not for the newest techie gadget, not for the sales on Friday after Thanksgiving. (Having to spend hours away from classes while waiting in never-ending lines, depending on mercy of the office harpies at the University of Belgrade just to be issued a monthly bus pass clearly does not count. That I endured this at the age before smart phones were invented, makes the experience even more traumatic).

So when I learned that Keizo Shimamoto would be serving 500 ramen burgers last Saturday at 11:00 am at Mitsuwa Market, a Japanese  chain store in my neighboring Torrance, I deliberately failed to set the alarm. Yes, I was determined to go, as I was curious about the concept, but I knew that I am not that hard-core to camp in front of a store for a food item, no matter how highly recommended and hyped.

Ramen Burger lines from bibberche.com

The recovering journalist in me woke up and nudged me to get up just in time to make it close to the end of the line at 10:30. I felt empowered by finding a decent parking place and exercised my patience for a while, relieved when more and more people queued up behind me. But when they announced that I probably would not get to be the one of the chosen 500 to sample the $8.00 ramen burger, along with a few dozen of my crestfallen neighbors who stood in line behind the coveted corner, I had to rethink my strategy.

I stayed in place for a few minutes, thinking that there might be some vegetarians ahead who might forfeit their burgers. The logic prevailed, though, and I decided to head to the store and be the journalist, experiencing the event vicariously and taking testimonies, resigned that it was not in my cards that day to taste the trendy fusion burger.

Ramen Burger assembly line from bibberche.com

I positioned myself in front of the stall hosting Ramen Burger crew and started taking photos of busy hands assembling the burgers, minutes before the hungry hordes were allowed to enter. Ramen noodles, already cooked and shaped into sturdy disks, were placed onto a griddle until golden brown and crispy. A charbroiled hamburger patty fit perfectly on top of one of the rounds, followed by a secret shoyu sauce, a few leaves of arugula, chopped scallions, and another ramen round. It was neatly folded in a pleated paper wrapper constructed specifically to prevent the juices and sauce from seeping out.

Ramen Burger experience from bibberche.com

I happened to be at the right place and the right time to see Keizo Shimamoto, the guy behind the the ramen burger fame, pass one of the burgers to his mother, who declared that she had never tasted one of her son’s inventions before. Even better, I stood next to the CBS News cameraman who passed his burger to me, as he was on a diet. I figured it was research combined with a good deed and bit into it.

I expected the ramen bun to fall apart at the first attack, but it was surprisingly sturdy. According to Keizo, this is not your usual instant ramen, but rather custom made by respectable Sun Noodle company in New Jersey. It took me much longer to finish this burger, and it kept me full for quite some time. It was an unusual combination of flavors and textures, which is typical for fusion cooking, and while I still prefer a classic hamburger, I would not mind breaking the routine with this umami-rich newest food sensation.

Keizo Shimamoto from bibberche.com

Keizo’s story is an inspiring one. Born, raised, and educated in southern California, he entered the work force as a computer programmer, only to depart to Japan to study ramen, in pursuit of his dream. After four years he returned with an idea of a ramen burger which combines his two culinary loves, and almost overnight became a frenzied success. It seems that things are moving incredibly fast for this one-man enterprise, as the demands are clearly going through the roof. He is riding the wave with a smile, knowing that all his work has finally paid off and his dream became a reality. He and his ramen burger are here to stay, and I would not be surprised to see Keizo more frequently back on the West coast.

A few hundred photos and a full belly later, I slowly made my way out of the store, where the line was shorter, but still winding around a couple of corners. Keizo’s ramen burger was satisfying, but did not convince me that anything is worth waiting in line for hours in midday southern California sun.

 

Aug 242013
 

Hatch Chiles at Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

Wednesday morning, I dared the rush hour traffic on PCH heading north to Santa Monica. It was my day off and I decided to spend a part of it with a few of my blogger friends at the opening of a new Bristol Farms store on Wilshire Boulevard, as guests of Melissa’s Produce and the store management.

You can send me to Tiffany’s and I’d probably meander around the aisles for a few moments just to show good graces before exiting in haste with sighs of relief. On the other hand, exploring a brand new grocery store filled with the most delectable food stuff is definitely a reason to get excited.

Right at the entrance to the store I was greeted by a bright display of Melissa’s Hatch chiles – a reminder of Bristol Farms’ efforts to offer the most seasonal, local, natural, organic, and community-driven produce. These New Mexico chiles are in season for only a few weeks in August and September, and now is the time to get a box or two, roast them (either at home or at one of the roasting events scheduled throughout southern California), freeze them, and bask in the happy thought that come January, you can start the pot of Chile Verde, or enjoy Hatch Chiles Rellenos at any time.

Hatch Chile Products at Bristol Farms from bibberche.comI have Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook, but as I walked around the store, I encountered a few items that used Hatch chiles in the most creative ways. OK, corn bread and cheese might be somewhat expected, but trail mix and sushi? Definitely intriguing and, in the case of trail mix, seriously addictive.

I spent a few hours weaving around the aisles, impressed by the choices and delighted by the knowledge, passion, and zeal of the employees. Having my friends by my side made this experience even more enjoyable.

We took turns snapping the photos  and admiring the vibrant colors of the fresh and versatile produce section.

Produce Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

Am I the only one who finds beauty in all different shades of pink in this meat counter? The beef is grass fed, the poultry air-dried, and most meet in general is natural and organic, void of antibiotics, growth hormones, extra water, preservatives, and chemicals.

Meat Department Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

I don’t have to complain any more about the lack of game meets in California and lament the glory days spent with my hunting friends in Serbia and Ohio, who generously shared their catch. I saw elk, ostrich, antelope, venison, wild boar, bison, and even kangaroo!

Specialty Meats Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

I have never seen fish cut and displayed this way in a grocery store and it left me speechless. To make it even better, swordfish was on sale and I knew I would not be leaving the store without it.

Seafood Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

Yes, there are a dozen or so different soups offered at the lunch counter and they have a pizza oven, a sushi station, make-your-own wok bowl station, a deli station with freshly roasted tri-tip and turkey (carved per order) – just to name a few delicacies.

Lunch at Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

And then there is cheese. I roamed the store, but I returned to this section again and again, drawn by artfully arranged tables offering hundreds of cheese varieties. If anyone asks, I’d like to stake a claim underneath one of those tables and live there forever!

Cheese Department Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

I thought of my girls as I ogled the dessert case, wishing they were here to sample the perfect little bites, but secretly glad they were not, as I know that some of my baking and decorating efforts might lose their high ratings compared to these masterpieces.Desserts at Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

The cupcakes were not small, nor dainty, and we attacked them as a group at the end of our working lunch. If I call it work, eating cupcakes counts as research or quality control, not pure, unadulterated indulgence. So work it is. And the researchers were happy.

Cupcakes from Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

Remember the swordfish? The piece I brought home was about one and a half pounds and the three of us feasted on it like queens. Hatch chicken sausage is on the menu tomorrow and I cannot wait to taste it.

Bristol Farms from bibberche.com

I am sure that Bristol Farms store will be wildly successful in this increasingly affluent Santa Monica neighborhood. The management hopes that it will become a regular stop for the locals who demand and expect the best. As for me, I’ll visit occasionally to sightsee, sample, and purchase another exquisite piece of seafood.

Aug 132013
 

Chile Verde from bibberche.com

I pride myself on being an organized person who writes endless lists and plans ahead for even the smallest events. I like to know what lies ahead if I can control it, and to prepare for any predictable outcome. Yet, when it comes to cooking, I find that I often disregard the methodical and follow the path of spontaneity.

Sure, I try to plan our weekly meals ahead and adapt the menu to my working hours. There is a grocery list written on a dry-erase board attached to the fridge by a few magnets. I do my best to stick to the items on that list, but so many times I allow beautiful produce to seduce me and I return home with cheap, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables that I cannot  bear to see go to waste.

And as I have no clue what to do with them, I try to squeeze a few recipes into the planned menu, or to push a meal to a later date to accommodate my newest impulse buy. I always offer valid excuses to that whiny little voice of buyer’s remorse: the season is so short and the produce tastes the best right now; it’s cheap; it’s filled with anti-oxidants and vitamins that we all need; I’ve seen a recipe on my friend’s blog that I must make; and so on…

Chile Verde from bibberche.com

A few days following my purchase I am in a frenzied mode. I buy in bigger quantities as I carry the genes of food-hoarders. We eat very little and I rarely prepare big batches of anything but beans, which I freeze in smaller portions for those almost non-existent days when I do not feel like cooking. The challenge is always in finding several ways to use the produce before it becomes inedible, and I impose these ridiculous rules on myself as I cannot stand throwing food away.

I have so many ideas and if the life did not intervene every single time, I would have an idyllic existence, filled with me flitting from one part of the kitchen to another, dashing outside to clip a sprig of an herb, and feeding errant birds crumbs from the third version of a recipe I prepared in an attempt to find perfection. But, that is not my life, no matter how many mornings I get up at dawn and how many nights I turn the lights off at the wee hours.

Chile Verde from bibberche.com

Several days ago I received a box from Melissa’s Produce packed with amazing-looking, fresh, Hatch chiles which are in season for a few very short weeks in August and September. It wasn’t an impulse buy, but it was an impulsive and very enthusiastic affirmative reply to an email. After an initial happy dance (cardboard boxes full of food seem to inspire in me some of the most embarrassing expressions of happiness), I had to make a master plan, as there were way too many chiles for immediate consumption.

I have to report that I am extremely satisfied with my creative process. Barely a week later, all the chiles are accounted for. I roasted them, peeled them, and separated them; some were sequestered in Ziploc bags in the freezer, and some became a part of our daily menu. I added them to my home-made mayonnaise for a spread for hamburgers; I chopped them along with tomatillos, eggplant, and onions for a Mediterranean relish my grandmother Njanja used to make; I used them sparingly in quesadillas.

Chile Verde from bibberche.com

But they really shined in Chile Verde with Pork, a slow-simmered stew imbued with different layers of flavor, which made me wonder if my Serbian ancestors ever crossed paths with my new Mexican neighbors, as our common love of peppers, onions, and beans is evident. I reached into my mother’s treasure of recipes for the basics, and browsed the Internet for the details of preparation. I chose to roast all my vegetables, not only peppers, and I was pleased with their rich, smoky undertones.

This dish tasted oddly familiar, even though I have never had it before. The girls were away at camp, and I was the only one at the dinner table. OK, I am fibbing: I ate two bowls of chile verde and rice curled up on the lower bunk of their bed, reading a Murakami book, trying to drown the voices in my head and their incessant “what ifs”. It worked for a while, which is enough.

I felt relieved after the pile of chiles disappeared, but a few hours later I was planning an expedition to a neighboring grocery store where red peppers were 4 for $1.00 and plums .68c per pound. Will someone, please, organize an intervention?

Chile Verde from bibberche.com

Chile Verde
5.0 from 2 reviews

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Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Roasting vegetables adds flavor and depth to the finished dish and it’s worth it. Serve with plain rice, corn tortillas, and a cold Pacifico.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Marinade:
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Vegetables:
  • 1 lb tomatillos, husked and washed
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 Hatch chiles, mild or hot
  • Stew:
  • 2 TBSP lard or bacon grease (you can use any grease/oil you like – I just prefer lard:)
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 bunch cilantro stems
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
Instructions
  1. Place the pork in a large, non-reactive bowl.
  2. Mix all the ingredients for marinade and rub into meat,
  3. Let marinate for 30-60 minutes,
  4. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400F.
  5. Place the vegetables on a rimmed cookie sheet.
  6. Roast for 40-45 minutes, until slightly charred and soft.
  7. Remove from oven and let the vegetables cool a bit.
  8. Peel tomatillos if burned.
  9. Pell and de-stem peppers.
  10. Chop or vegetables in small dice.
  11. Heat a Dutch oven on medium-high temperature.
  12. Add lard.
  13. When it starts to sizzle, add pork.
  14. Brown on all sides and remove to a plate.
  15. Pour all chopped roasted vegetables in the Dutch oven.
  16. Stir for 1 minute.
  17. Add the pork, chicken stock, cilantro stems, and oregano.
  18. Heat until it boils.
  19. Turn the heat down and simmer for 1 hour, until the pork is tender and stew has thickened.
  20. If necessary, add some more stock.
  21. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  22. Serve with rice and corn tortillas.

 

Jul 302013
 
Hatch Chile Cookbook Promotion at Melissa's from bibberche.com
Hatch chile season is just around the corner and I cannot wait to fill my house with smoky smell of these meaty roasted New Mexico peppers. I still pursue every sale my local grocery stores have for sweet red peppers that remind me of late summers in Serbia and huge sacks of dark red capsicums littering the sidewalks, farmers markets, and back yards, destined to be turned into a dozen or so different preserves, relishes, and spreads.
But Hatch chiles, as new as they are in my pepper-obsessed world, bring me a sense of adventure and excitement. They are available for only a few weeks in August and September, and there are hordes of aficionados breathlessly awaiting their appearance. Some of them will be heading straight to Hatch, New Mexico, equipped with wooden crates, huge bags, and plenty of room in their trunks.
Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's
Just in time for the new season, hard-working folks from Melissa’s Produce released Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook. I was fortunate to be invited recently to their headquarters in Vernon, CA, for a luncheon and book promotion, where I met the authors, Chef Ida Rodrigez and Sharon Hernandez, co-owner of the company. Melissa’s talented chefs prepared fifteen dishes, most of which featured dried or frozen Hatch chiles.
Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon at Melissa's from bibberche.com
What gives these chiles their celebrity status? Like Vidalia onions, they are grown in a small area with distinct micro-climate; in New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley days are hot and nights cold, which slows down the ripening process of the chiles and they mature to be meatier and tastier than many of their more famous cousins. They also range from mild to extremely hot, which makes them versatile and adaptable to any palate and taste. As I learned at Melissa’s, the taste of Hatch chiles is enhanced by roasting. And roasted, they can be frozen and preserved to be used throughout the year.
The new cookbook features 150 recipes, from cocktails, starters, main dishes, to desserts. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of different ways you can use Hatch chiles:
Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Hatch Chile Salsa Fresca

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Hatch Chile Guacamole

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Honey Mustard Pretzel and Nut Crunch with Hatch Chile Powder

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Hatch Chile Corn Bread

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Hatch Chile Club Sandwiches and Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Grilled Shrimp Skewers

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Dutch Yellow Potatoes Salad with Hatch Chile Vinaigrette

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Baby Heirloom Tomato and Grilled Corn Salad

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Hatch Chile Devil’s Food Cookies

Hatch Chile Cookbook Luncheon Melissa's from bibberche.com

Even beverages can be spiced up: Hatch Chile Ice Cubes

Hatch chile season officially starts on August 3th, when they first start appearing at the local grocery stores. Here is the schedule of Hatch chile roasting at Bristol Farms Stores in southern California:
Westchester Saturday August 17th 8:00am – 2:00pm 8448 Lincoln Blvd. Westchester, CA 90045
South Pasadena  Saturday August 24th 8:00am – 2:00pm 606 Fair Oaks Ave. South Pasadena, CA 91030
Santa Monica Saturday August 24th 8:00am – 2:00pm *Live Broadcast with Chef Jet Tila from 10am – 12pm 3105 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90403
Newport Beach Saturday August 31st 8:00am – 2:00pm 810 Avocado Ave. Newport Beach, CA 92660
La Jolla Saturday September 7th 8:00am – 2:00pm 8510 Genesee Ave. La Jolla, CA 92122
And Lazy Acres store in Long Beach will host the roasting August 17, 8:00 – 2:00 2080 Bellflower Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90815
If you would like to roast your own chiles, follow these simple and thorough instructions from my friend Dorothy:
For more on Melissa’s Hatch Chili Cookbook luncheon and promotion, read these informative articles.
You can grab your own copy of the book from Amazon or from Melissa’s Produce.
Jul 152013
 

Boozy Peach Compote

My sister was born toward the end of July, when the Earth spews forth its abundance, making the stalls at the markets sag under the weight of fruits and vegetables in all primary colors, throwing at us dahlias and gladioli with their large, obscenely beautiful flowers, flaunting their velvety petals and sinful shades like over-confident debutantes who are aware that their time is yet to come.

When we were in high school, I used to resent her birthday, as it seemed that she had an unfair advantage; everyone in town was sporting a healthy sun-kissed tan, summer break was at its best, the streets were teeming with teenagers, the city pool was the place to be, and parents were stewing in summer heat long enough not to be bothered to keep everything in check.

Serbian Peaches

As if that were not enough, the crates of peaches started appearing in our back yard, grown on the farm of our family friends. And I am not talking about your ordinary, supermarket quality fruit. These beauties were hand-picked  at the peak of their ripeness, gently laid into the crates covered with crumpled newspaper like babies in cradles, their red, and orange, and yellow fuzzy faces looking up. We approached them with the predictability of Pavlov’s dogs, salivating at the mere thought of their fragrant, luscious flesh that yielded so easily to our teeth and tongues, oblivious of the aromatic, sweet juices running down our chins and staining our tee-shirts.

Boozy Peach Compote from bibberche.com

Summer for me is not at its height without peaches. They encapsulate the best nature has to offer, holding the essence of the sun in their perfect round shape. After smelling them individually for quality control, I bought several pounds at our local grocery store. I could not wait to sink my teeth into the soft fruit, anticipating a flood of memories. And I was not disappointed.

I have stopped resenting my sister and her birth season long ago. Every summer, wherever I am, I buy gladioli frequently, even when she is not with me in our childhood home. I eat peaches with abandon, smiling, awash with nostalgia, remembering those lazy, care-free summers of our youth when everything seemed possible.

Boozy Peach Compote from bibberche.com

Ghosts of Summers Past: Boozy Peach Compote
5.0 from 3 reviews

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Recipe type: Dessert, Condiment
Cuisine: International
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
This is an easy, versatile recipe which can accommodate any type of stone fruits and different liqueurs or spirits. The fruit is not really cooked, but rather plunged into the hot liquid, leaving it somewhat firm. Use it to top vanilla ice cream, pound cake, pancakes, waffles, or crepes.
Ingredients
  • 4-5 large, ripe, but not too soft peaches, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp brandy, rum, or cognac (optional)
  • 1 cup apple juice (add a bit extra if not using alcohol)
  • 4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Fresh mint leaves
Instructions
  1. Pour water and sugar in a heavy, stainless steel pot and heat on medium-low temperature until sugar caramelizes, swirling the pot frequently to prevent burning. (It will start changing color at the edges first and swirling will distribute the caramelization).
  2. It is done when it turns amber.
  3. Remove the pot from fire and add alcohol. (Be careful, as it may ignite).
  4. Add apple juice and lemon juice, and heat until it boils and all the crystallized sugar melts.
  5. Pour the peaches, vanilla bean, and cinnamon stick into the hot liquid and immediately turn the heat off.
  6. Let it cool off to desired temperature and serve with fresh mint leaves.

 

Jun 282013
 
Mama i Nina from bibberche.com

Mother and Nina

My blog has been alive for a little over three years, and I don’t think I have written more than a couple posts without mentioning Mother at least once. In a way, my site is a collection of memories, anecdotes, funny and not so funny events from my past and present, and she had one of the leading roles in this dramatic piece called life.

She lost her battle with cancer last July, and ever since I have been thinking an awful lot about her. Oh, she has always been present in my thoughts, as she was watching from afar over one of my shoulders, either unapologetically scolding me for doing something wrong, or lovingly praising my efforts and victories. But I don’t have the luxury any more to roll my eyes, sulk, throw back a sarcastic repartee, cry the wounded tears, argue for hours, smile out of pride, or plant a loud kiss on her soft cheek.

Mama, Zozo i Anja from bibberche.com

Mom, Zoe and Anya

And now that she cannot give me her unsolicited advice, I ask myself several times a day what she would have done or said. Every time I have a decision to make, I have to remind myself that I cannot click on her name in my Skype list of contacts and pray that she is not deeply involved in a game of Zuma or Shapez and able to coach me (if I caught her in between her favorite TV shows).

I have to admit that I flippantly pushed aside many of those moments I would have cherished now, impatient to move on with my own life, thinking of “no more” only in the most abstract and metaphysical sense, lulled in a make-believe conviction that my mother is immortal.

But those moments of regret are rare. When I think of my mother, I remember everything she tried to teach me. Now that I am a mother myself, even the lessons I refused to take to heart actually make sense. I repeat her words to my girls, although I made a silent pact with my teen-self not to torture my future children with her admonishments. I realized that she wanted to help me, rather than prevent me from having fun and enjoying the life to the fullest.

Mama i tata

Mom and Dad

Nestle©® Pure Life® is encouraging their fans on Facebook to post words of wisdom from their mothers. I would need several hours and many pages to list my mom’s sage advice, so I had to pick only a few:

Clean after yourself: It’s easier to keep the room tidy, saves time, preserves clothes, and contributes to overall harmony.

You can have too much of a good thing: For years I tried to fight this one, as it started when I began dating. Mother always stressed moderation and I finally had to accept it, too.

Keep smiling: This advice came to me naturally, as my smile was the best defense against shyness. There are people in my home town who recognize me by my smile after decades.

Help those in need: I don’t have to try too hard to implement this one. Sometimes it takes less than a minute to hold the door, pick up a dropped item, or answer a question.

Have pride in yourself: As a perfectionist, I took this one a little bit too far. It is still not too late to accept imperfection and learn how to be proud.

968938 10200602861408267 1181392685 n The First Time Without You: Happy Birthday, Mother!

Mom with her daughters

She would smile smugly if she could hear my daily diatribes and lectures. I love my girls, just like she loved me, my sister, and my brother; I want to guide them, protect them, teach them, and pass my experiences to them, in hope that they would learn from my mistakes and my successes. I meet their defiant words with a snicker, knowing that one day they will be standing right here, lecturing their precious babies, with an invisible line of wise women behind them.

The one thing Mother did not teach me is to drink plenty of water. She sipped, and big amounts of liquids made her uncomfortable. She drank herbal teas and Turkish coffee, small glasses of homemade juices and soda water. I had to teach myself how to avoid dehydration, going against the flow in my native Serbia, where water was looked upon as necessary evil, the beverage of choice only in the dog days of summer, preferably faucet temperature, and never after exercising.

My girls know better. Even though it annoys me to find half-empty and empty water bottles at random places all over the house (in their beds, under the dining-room table, in the bathroom, in their backpacks, hidden in a pile of stuffed animals), I know that drinking water comes naturally to them and my lessons on that topic are not necessary.

This post is sponsored by Nestle©® Pure Life®. I have received consideration from Linqia on some of the materials for this post (photos, etc.)

Pure wisdom should be shared with others! Visit the Nestle©® Pure Life® Facebook wall and leave a comment with the hashtag #momswisdom sharing what your mother told you and how it has made you a better person.

Jun 242013
 

 

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

Last Saturday morning, I grabbed my camera and shades, and drove south on PCH towards Huntington Beach and their 6th Annual Chili and Salsa cook-off. With the windows down, the wind tussling my hair, infinite blue sky above, and the Pacific on my right, I had a real Cinderella moment: Freida’s old hunter-green Bonneville with peeling paint, rusty rims, dents, and scratches became in my mind a sleek, red, and most definitely Italian convertible, and every movie I ever saw that featured southern California coast started playing in the background.

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

Not a Lamborghini, but I’ll take it!

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

Look at all those beautiful chiles from my friends at Melissa’s Produce!

I like the reckless and adventurous feel of Huntington Beach, but I always seem to just past through it on my way somewhere else. And every time I promise myself that I will allot at least a day to roam around this town that keeps on fascinating me. So Saturday June 15th I spent a few hours exploring downtown area where the annual street fair is held.

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

Redhot Redneck salsa from Killarney’s was wickedly good.

Main Street was closed to the traffic and filled with booths selling street fair food, t-shirts, custom jewelry, candles, Oriental art, home-made preserves, purses, and even beach cruiser bikes. There was a stage on each end with bands playing one after the other throughout the afternoon. A side street held an enormous blow-up play area for the kids and several information booths placed along the Main Street offered details about the fair, parking, downtown events, and Chili and Salsa tasting.

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

I loved this chili! Lots of cumin and cilantro.

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

Mariachi in front of Aloha Grill booth

I strolled in the rhythm of the music, took pictures, talked to the vendors, spun the wheel at a couple of booths (I won a wine bag from the OC Fair booth:) and bought two leather hippie bracelets for my teens. I tasted a lot of chili and a lot of salsa, and my big water bottle proved to be my best friend.

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

Huntington Beach Chili and Salsa from bibberche.com

The winners of the 6th annual Chili and Salsa Tasting, Chili Ahumada from Shenanigans

It felt good just to be outside in the warm California sunshine, stealing a few worry-free hours from a really busy week. I only regretted not bringing my girls along. But the fun in Huntington Beach does not end with this event; the community has planned many happenings throughout the summer, and next time I head south on PCH for Surf City Nights on Tuesdays, my girls are coming with me. Blow-up slides and funnel cakes for them, farmers market for me, loud singing in the car with windows down for all three of us – summer just got a whole lot better!

Jun 152013
 

For years, June was one of my favorite months. June was like Friday for the working people, marking the beginning of a long-awaited break. Linden trees lining the streets in the neighborhood blossomed and their sweet smell offered the promises of long, summer days filled with adventure and hope, as another school year ended.

June 15 was Mother’s birthday that opened the season of numerous summer birthdays in the family. Today would have been her 75th birthday. But this time our living room will not be filled with her friends from the city choir harmonizing Russian ballads, Serbian town songs and French chansons. No one will have to carry trays precariously spaced with tiny porcelain cups of Turkish coffee and slender stemmed crystal glasses filled to the brim with Mother’s home-made cherry brandy. We will not have to fret if we brought the pastries right on time for she won’t be there to cast a warning glance our way.

Last year I wished Mother a happy birthday on Skype. I was in California, and she was too weak to turn her webcam on. Three weeks later the girls and I arrived to Serbia, and I managed to plant a big birthday kiss on her sunken cheek.  A few days later she left us forever, while my sister and I held her hands and my brother stood at the the foot of her bed. It was inevitable. It was a relief for her. It was a merciful end to a battle she fought valiantly until the last day.

I wish that I could click her name on Skype and hear her voice again. I wish she could have lived to see the photos of Nina’s graduation from UC Berkeley I posted on Facebook. I wish she could have heard Zoe’s Lady Macbeth monologue. I wish she could have read Anya’s most recent short story. And I wish she had left in peace, knowing that I would be fine, trusting that I was strong enough to make a new start in my life.

I miss my “Mamicken” every day. And every day I think of her. Yes, I cry sometimes, craving her words and yearning for her hug. But most of the times I smile, finding her traces in our everyday life, in my admonishing the girls, in their desire to keep all the sweaters she knitted for them, in the dishes I prepare, in the smiles I offer to neighbors… Today is her birthday and even though she is not with us any more, I know that she is hovering around, reminding me to look after myself, caressing the girls’ hair, and singing softly, with her perfect pitch, telling me that everything will be fine with the world. And I believe her.