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MarkC's Profile

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Pool of water under omelette?

I've heard that salting the eggs can cause weeping. In his youtube video, Gordon Ramsey recommends not salting the egg mixture prior to cooking, and only adding right at the very end. So you might try not salting the egg mixture, and only adding salt to the finished omelet just before eating.

Aug 10, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Best book for improving cooking skills?

For me, Alton Brown is the best when it comes to teaching the science behind cooking, and he is a rich source of original cooking tips. I'm Only Here for the Food is great, but I like his Good Eats volumes even more. He's funny too, which doesn't hurt.

Michael Ruhlmann comes from the same school of thought, and of course the Cooks Illustrated people. Definitely subscribe to their website, and get their Science of Cooking book. Each recipe has a section called "Why this recipe works", which pretty much answers all your questions.

Jacques Pepin is an old master, but I'm not sure he is exactly what you're looking for, and isn't really one for quick tips.

For wonderful food writing, get Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking" and "More Home Cooking". She is also funny and warm, with wonderful stories to go with the recipes.

I never read Gordon Ramsay, but a youtube video of his gave me the best way for cooking scrambled eggs of anybody else, and that's the only way I do it now. I should try one of his books.

Jul 30, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Where To Buy Quark?? Kwark?

It runs along Ivar street between Hollywood and Sunset Blvds, but I bet you can find one closer to where you live. If you google farmer's market in los angeles or orange county, you'll find the website. Usually the sellers travel among different farmer's markets, which are held on different days of the week.

Jul 27, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Where To Buy Quark?? Kwark?

Just happens I saw quark today by an artisan cheese seller at the Hollywood Farmer's market. I'm afraid I don't remember the name, but your local farmer's market might be a good place to start.

A final note on the Templars. Until fairly recently, there were only two kinds of cheese widely available in Israel - the aforementioned white cheese, and a second called "yellow cheese" which is derived from German muenster. So the templars had a pronounced impact on the Israeli cheese-making industry.

Jul 27, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Where To Buy Quark?? Kwark?

You might try Israeli grocers. Quark is a popular product in Israel, where it is called "white cheese". Interestingly, it was introduced to what was then Turkish Palestine by Christian fundamentalist Germans who called themselves Templars. You can still see their beautiful old stone houses in Jerusalem and other parts of the country. They were expelled by the British during WWII, but their quark-making tradition lived on.

By the way, it is not at all like labneh, which is very tart. White cheese has a texture like sour cream and a mildly sweet flavor. In Israel it is sold in individual plastic containers like yogurt.

Don't know if there are any Israeli grocers in Downey, but they have in the SFV and possibly elsewhere.

Jul 27, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Aroma Cafe Hollywood - Report

Thanks! We started out liking Cheebo but the last couple of times it wasn't good and now we don't go anymore. Like the Pikey but find it overpriced. Chibiscus is kind of a kick, particularly if you've got kids who are into Asian pop culture.

Jul 23, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Aroma Cafe Hollywood - Report

We moved to the area recently, and this is one of our standbys. We come from Israel, so this is a taste of home for us. If you want to try and Israeli tradition, go on the weekends for Jachnun. It is a Yemenite specialy, a kind of steamed bread served with hardboiled eggs, tomato puree, and hot sauce. Not something you want to eat every day, but worth trying once.

What are your other favorite restaurants in the area?

Jul 22, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

How do I make PERFECT scrambled eggs?

I like this method too. It was a revelation to me when I saw him take out a saucepan, rather than a skillet. Now this is the only way I make them. Good bye to dried out eggs. I like them soft and runny over a piece of good toast, but if you just cook them a little more then they're soft and custardy.

Jun 05, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Sour Cherries

Thanks! I am so there.

Jun 05, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Sour Cherries

Can you recommend a good one?

Jun 04, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Pie cherries in so.cal.

Thanks. If you remind me a year from now, I'll let you know how I make out with the Persian cherries.

Jun 04, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Pie cherries in so.cal.

Oh, go ahead and enjoy your sour grapes, I mean cherries. I guess you've earned them, after all the blizzards and hurricanes you've had to put up with.

Jun 04, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Pie cherries in so.cal.

Currants and gooseberries I can understand, but pie cherries? Come on, cherry pie is almost as American as apple. It's not that there's not enough cold weather, there aren't enough pie makers!

By the way, what part of town do you live in, and do you know the varietal of your neighbor's cherry tree? If he can grow it, maybe I can too.

Jun 04, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Pie cherries in so.cal.

So it is as I feared, no fresh. Not enough cold weather here. Interestingly, there is a nursery in the valley specializing in Persian fruit trees, and there is a Persian sour cherry called alboo which supposedly does not have a chill requirement. I just bought a couple, but will probably have to wait a couple of years for enough cherries to make a pie.

Jun 04, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Pie cherries in so.cal.

I know this isn't supposed to be a regional section, but few people in the LA section seemed to know anything about sour pie cherries, and their availability. So to any angeleno home cooks out there, do you know when and where sour cherries can be found in LA? Surely there are folks in LA who make cherry pie, and you can't do it very well with sweet cherries.

Jun 03, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Fresh figs?

I bought a carton of mission figs at Whole Foods today. They looked beautiful and tasted awful. Dry and tasteless, without any of the strawberry color inside. I threw them all out. Plant a tree or buy from a farmer's market. Figs are too delicate to survive the supply chain.

Jun 03, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Grimaldi's Pizza in El Segundo Review:

It wasn't really a Neapolitan versus a New York crust thing. Actually, I think that a Neapolitan crust should be crispier, because it's thinner A New York crust should be thicker than Neapolitan to hold all the ingredients, but it should also be springy. You should be able to fold a slice of New York pizza. If you'd folded this pizza, I think it would have broken. My guess is that their oven wasn't hot enough to give it that heat shock that good pizza crust needs, and instead it just dried out and crisped up.

May 30, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Grimaldi's Pizza in El Segundo Review:

Cracker-like, maybe. Not springy, excessively crunchy, no chew. A little tough, even. You're right, it's hard to find the right words. It wasn't springy and artfully charred in places, like you expect. Could have been the result of over-cooking. I also didn't get the feeling of pizza passion from any of the wait staff - like any of them knew the first thing about pizza. The meal was tasty, but definitely not the holy grail for pizza questers.

Not in the same league as Settebello, for example, if you want a point of comparison.

May 30, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Grimaldi's Pizza in El Segundo Review:

I tried this place last night. Pizza is good, not great. The crust is definitely nothing special - biscuit-like, do not expect your springy, Neapolitan crust here.

If you do go, ask them not to burn your pizza. My friend's came out, definitely overcooked. I told the waitress I wanted mine less well done, and she ran to the kitchen and snatched it out in the nick of time. They'd planned to leave it for another two minutes, which would have burned it.

May 29, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Connie and Teds, a Review

Just tried Connie and Ted's for he first time. Expected to love it based on so many good recommendations, and boy was I disappointed. What a bland, lackluster meal. After looking forward to trying the lobster roll, I didn't even want a second bite. The clam chowder was good - at least there was some chili oil in there to give it some flavor. And the fries were good. Everything else completely forgettable. I don't think it was the quality of the seafood - I just think these guys don't know how to cook. I remember a similar place in NYC called Mary's Fish Camp that was infinitely better.

Emperor's Clothes, in my opinion.

May 25, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area
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Sour Cherries

Sour cherries are not unripe sweet cherries, but a distinctive variety. They are also called pie cherries, because they are most commonly used in cherry pie. They are typically smaller, and have a bright, scarlet color, as compared to sweet cherries, which are larger and darker. The most common variety is the morello, and there is also the vishniac.

The season is very short - typically 2-3 weeks in early June, and I don't want to miss it!

May 23, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Layers in Homemade Biscuits

By the way, the grated frozen butter is good for avoiding overworking the dough. You don't have to fold the dough - some recipes just tell you to toss the grated butter into the dry ingredients.

For flakiness, sprinkle the gratings over two-thirds of the rolled out dough, then fold the final third over, and then fold again to create three laminated layers. Roll out and repeat, with rests in between. More time consuming than drop biscuits, but it gives you those crisp layers.

May 23, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

LA food-centric day trip

Here's a piece from the LA Weekly about good food near hiking trails:

http://www.laweekly.com/squidink/2013...

May 23, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Sour Cherries

Anyone know when sour (pie) cherries are available in Los Angeles, and where they can be found? They have a high chill requirement, so may not be too widespread in farmer's markets.

May 22, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Looking for Red Chillies - SFV

Are you talking about cayenne chilies? The ones in the picture look like Thai, or Bird's Eye chilis, which I would not describe as long.

Your best bet is probably a Korean supermarket. There's one in Northridge, in the mall on the southeast corner of Reseda and Devonshire. I've never looked for them there, so I can't say for sure they have them, but that's where I'd look.

Might also try Food King, a Mexican supermarket, in the mall on Corbin and Plummer. Or maybe a branch of the Vallarta supermarkets, of which there are many in the valley, including in Northridge on Reseda near Rayan.

May 22, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Layers in Homemade Biscuits

I had a laminated biscuit dough recipe that worked great, but I can't locate it now. The trick was to use grated frozen butter, which you would spread over the rolled out dough, and then fold. Do it two or three times. I'm not saying this is the best or only way, but it produced great, flakey biscuits.

May 22, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking

Lunch in the Granada Hills/Northridge area ...

For something out of the ordinary, you can try Ninong's Pastry and Café in Granada Hills. It is a Filipino place that does nice brunches on Sunday. Their "signature" dish is the ube pancakes, which are blue and made from a kind of yam. Very mom and pop, but good food.

For Persian, I would recommend Ali Baba in Granada Hills, which I always thought was better than Shamshiri, and has a better ambiance.

May 19, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

Pizzeria Mozza or Chi Spacca

I just ate at Chi Spacca for the first time. While I liked it, my opinion is that if you're not prepared to be a big spender and spring for one of the grilled steaks (which will set you back a minimum of $80), then you should go to one of the other restaurants. By "eating around" the expensive heart of the menu, you find yourself eating a lot of fatty things (charcuterie or cheeses) or starchy things (flat breads, meat pie, etc). It was tasty, but somehow felt unbalanced, and we would have been happier at the pizzeria.

May 17, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

SF Valley/West Hills

I've never been, but there's a Turkish place on Shoup and I think Sherman Way, called Doner King, or something like that. I used to pass it every morning taking my daughter to school, and it was too early for kebab. There's a Thai place in the same strip mall.

The Firehouse restaurant on Victory and I think Reseda (I moved from the valley a while ago) is a great Greek place. Fabs hot dogs in the big mall on Victory and Tampa is a perennial favorite.

I used to go for coffee to a place called Mudhouse on Fallbrook and Roscoe. A good, independent coffee shop, nice antidote to Starbucks.

There's a stretch of Sherman Way that has a lot of funky second hand shops, pet stores and book stores. I forget exactly where. It's one of the few real commercial areas in the valley that's not a shopping mall, and it's fun to poke around. There's a Jewish pastry shop there called Edie's that's worth stopping in at.

The adjacent neighborhood of Reseda has a lot of divey hole-in-the-wall ethnic places that are worth checking out. Do a Yelp search and see what there is. I remember a good Turkish place, a sort of Korean fusion place (real hole in the wall), and some others.

As far as good restaurants, the valley is generally considered inferior to other parts of LA, but one exception is Sri Lankan food, where you have more in the valley. There's a place called Curry Leaf, and another place called Apee or something like that on Ventura. Again, you'll need to search for it, or maybe others can you fill you in.

For superlative Thai food, go to Lum Ka Naad in Northridge.

May 15, 2014
MarkC in Los Angeles Area

At the end of my rope -- please help

There's no reason for anybody not to cook up a decent hamburger. The problem is clear. You are using the wrong cookbooks. Stay the hell away from Julia Child and classic cookbook authors like her. This is not any kind of a slight, it's just that they're not relevant for modern home cooks, and the recipes are incomplete and inapplicable - certainly for a novice cook. Get cookbooks by modern authors like Alton Brown and Michael Ruhlman. These people will teach you to cook, not just read a recipe. Get a subscription to Cooks Illustrated. Scour the internet for recipes. You should cross-reference and select tips from multiple sources.

In my opinion, none of the other advice you've gotten here addresses the real issue, and may contribute to your feeling of failure and hopelessness (go to cooking school? come on). I can't hammer a nail into a wall, and I'm a perfectly good home cook, thanks to these authors. Authors like Julia Child are wonderful to read, but don't follow their recipes.

Be a curious cook. Read a lot. That's the key to becoming good, IMHO.

Finally, as others have said, heed the old adage: "Learn to fail, or fail to learn." Failure is an integral part of the learning process. Learn to laugh at yourself, and keep the phone number of your favorite take out place handy.

May 07, 2014
MarkC in Home Cooking
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