New School Hamburger Gravy

When I was in grammar school at Cheremoya Avenue Elementary School in Hollywood, California, about once every two weeks we had Hamburger Gravy and Mashed Potatoes.  I really loved that dish, it was my favorite.  All the other stuff was pretty bland, and actually kind of nasty, especially the paper thin cheeseburgers.  For years and years, I have been trying to replicate the special taste of that gravy, and have been pretty much successful.

Years ago, when I first met Chef John Farion, he treated some friends and I to dinner at another chef’s restaurant on Melrose .  I ordered the filet mignon with blue cheese sauce.  It was truly fantastic, and I have been pairing blue cheese with beef ever since.  I guess I’m not the only one, even Carl’s Jr. now has a steakhouse burger featuring blue cheese.

I get my blue cheese at the Armenian stores, for several reasons, 1) because the cheese is of a superior quality, 2) because it is much less expensive than the major chain supermarkets, and better quality.  I just bought a half a pound brick a few days ago, and it was sitting in the cheese drawer waiting to be the star of some dish.

I had an epiphany!  Why not make hamburger gravy and add blue cheese at the end?  I tried it, and it was, well, fantastic!  This was much, much better than the gravy I had had when I was a child.  Now, just because Spane gave it a big thumbs up, I can’t guarantee that every child will like it as much as we did.

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Hot Tin Roof Salad – Composed Grilled Steak Salad

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I loved the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives. It just seemed the weather was so hot and humid in that movie, kind of like it was today in Glendale, California. Spane, Amber’s children and a friend all had a wonderful time playing in the neighbors pool, and as I watched them, I thought that a steak salad would be the perfect end to a perfect day. I decided to call the salad Hot Tin Roof Salad because it was so hot and steamy here, just like in the movie.

With that being said, one of the wonderful things about summer is all the great, fresh vegetables. Tomatoes are sweet and pop juice into your mouth. Lettuce is really crisp and the greenest of green. The little Persian cucumbers I get at the local Armenian store are tender and flavorful – not like their large watery English cousins with the waxed skins that always seem to come up on you later. Buttery Haas avocados are also plentiful – did you know that all Haas avocados come from one single tree that died at the age of 76 in La Habra Heights, California?

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Blue Cheese Burgers

Danish Blue Cheese

Danish Blue Cheese

When I was a little girl, my mother would make blue cheese dressing, and she would give me a little piece of cheese. It was never enough. When I grew up, and I looked at the price of blue cheese, I could see why. Then, I moved to Glendale, where blue cheese is sold off the wheel, and is a lot less expensive. Finally, I can have as much blue cheese as I want!

When I first met my friend Chef John Farion, he took his ex-wife, his sister Katherine, and me to a nice restaurant on Melrose. His friend was chef there, and I had a lovely steak with blue cheese sauce. It was heavenly, and I have adapted it to my own kitchen. I’ll be posting it next time I make it.

So, last night, I really wanted to come up with that same taste when I was making blue cheese burgers. I realized it would have to be the sauce that did it, and it was a hit!

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Suddenly Composed Salad

Suddenly Composed!Picture-2

Every year in Southern California, specifically in Los Angeles, we have something called June Gloom. It happens right after Memorial Day, which is usually hot, when the marine layer sits over the Pacific Ocean coming inland and keeps everything cool and gloomy. My mother used to call this kind of weather “sweater weather” because it wasn’t cold enough for a coat, but it would get warm enough after the clouds burned off to go in a sun dress, and wear a cardigan in between.

It is also the time when fruits and vegetables are springing up very fresh and flavorful in your local market. Just a few days ago, I was lucky enough to get green tomatoes to make Fried Green Tomatoes with Basil Garlic Mayonnaise.

Today my corner store had ripe, red, tomatoes that cried out to be brought home for salad. There were also perky Persian cucumbers waiting to go into my basket, and a perfectly ripe avocado that felt great nestled in my hand. Spirited spring onions were also placed in my basket as well as three hearts of Romaine lettuce.

I also had some things at home to put in the salad. I had a little pastrami and swiss cheese left over from making Chicken Rubens with Saffron Rice. I had marinated sun dried tomatoes, black olive slices, real bacon bits, peperoncini and blue cheese. I decided that Girard’s Champagne Dressing would be perfect.

The real trick to making a composed salad is not so much what you put in it, as how it is presented. Each ingredient should be in its own little area, and artfully arranged. In my salad, for example, I fanned out both the tomato and avocado halves, and made a little flower out of sliced Persian cucumber. The black olive slices, crumbled bacon and blue cheese were in the middle, with one whole sun dried tomato propped up with a peperoncino sitting in their place of honor on the very top of the salad.

You are free to add your own ingredients, chick peas would be a good addition, so would chopped eggs, marinated onions, Kalamata olives, Chinese snow peas, grilled chicken, the sky’s the limit!

So enjoy these wonderful days of summer and remember that salads don’t have to be dull or ordinary.

Serendipity–Chicken and Waffles

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Definition of SERENDIPITY:
the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this
Merriam Webster

My friend, Amber, and I went to a local garage sale, and I only took five dollars with me, mostly because I did not really want anything.

I spied with my little eye, a shiny thing with black handles. I asked “How much for the waffle iron?”  The man said, “How much do you want to pay?”  Not wanting to sound eager, I said, “Well, how much to you want for it?”  and he said, “Oh, just give me $5.00 (Five Dollars) and take it away!”  I quickly handed him the $5.00 I had, knowing this was a steal!  When his mother came over and started extolling the waffle iron, and showing me that it had reversible plates (something I really wasn’t expecting), he was disappointed that he had already the $5.00 from me.  Later I looked on Ebay, and say that my toaster goes anywhere from $35.00 to $70.00.  Wow!  What a deal!
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