Illustration by Daniel Strongwater

At the end of the summer, we took a trip to the great state of California. We started in San Francisco and ventured down the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles. We drove from SF to Big Sur to San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, to Los Angeles. We even drove north to Napa Valley. We drove approximately 500 miles. And, along the way, we ate and we drank as much as the California Republic had to offer in 9 days. We ate dry farmed tomatoes, figs off the trees, pig ears and chops, cuban and japanese food, sandwiches, tacos and croissants. We drank plenty of coffee and wine; Anchor California Lager, and some of the world’s greatest cocktails. We embarked on a culinary road trip. We hope you will join us for the ride.
 

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Washed Out–It All Feels Right
 

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06/10/2013 Dumpling Party by Kira


 

 
Yesterday, we hosted a homemade dumpling party in our garden to fundraise for our new nonprofit, China Residencies. The process of wrapping dumplings by hand is one of the most interactive and delicious forms of cultural exchange, aligning perfectly with our mission to help more artists experience China firsthand.
 

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Brilliant Green Pesto
 

 

 
I have been searching for a pesto recipe, trying to find one that holds a vibrant green color and has a soft, balanced flavor. After a few failed attempts of my pesto turning dark as soon as I stirred it into a bowl of spaghetti, or when I opened my fridge the following day, I started buying jars of it, rather than making it myself. It was also a rather messy process: the unruly, voluminous basil had to be processed in small bunches. I never liked the spicy, strong aftertaste of raw garlic, either, but when I made pesto omitting the garlic, I could sense a flavor missing. The jars were convenient, though they did lack the essential fresh grassy taste of homemade pesto. And the portions were tiny for a steep price.
 

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Banana Bread

 

Carrot Almond Cake

 
Breakfast: Banana Bread
(Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book)
 
I still remember when I first baked banana bread not so long ago in a west Philly kitchen. The recipe was from a Tyler Florence cookbook. I’d never tried banana bread before, but I had a handful of overripe sweet-smelling bananas that crumbled in my fingers as I unpeeled them and I didn’t know what to do with them. I’ve eaten bananas prepared many ways: chopped into fruit salads or Greek yogurt, caramelized with butter in a pan, poached in coconut milk. But it always struck me as strange to cook them in a cake. That is, until I tasted banana bread freshly baked, still warm from the oven, so moist its consistency was of challah French toast, with the occasional pop of a nut and pocket of molten dark chocolate.
 

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A little while ago I bought a bag of rice flour with the ambition of baking gluten-free cookies for my mother, but along the way I was side swept by buckwheat flour. The rice flour sat in my kitchen in a glass recipient on the back of a shelf, untouched, until this weekend. The inspiration came two weeks ago. While visiting a Thai store in LA, I tasted these marvelous coconut sweets called Khanom Krok. They are crisp on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. The interior tastes like a smooth coconut rice pudding. The ones I had were small and bite sized, and I devoured them until my younger brother accidentally tipped our box of Khanom Krok onto the ground (we still salvaged a few). But I had tasted enough to feel hungry for more. The main ingredients in this recipe are rice flour and coconut cream. They are cooked like tiny pancakes in a skillet specially constructed and sized for these desserts. Since then, I’ve been thinking about rice flour and the creamy texture of those Thai pancakes, and as I flipped through my cookbooks, I wondered how I could make my own breakfast treats without the special skillet.
 
Then I found Salvadoran breakfast quesadillas. Close to the end of food52’s Volume Two cookbook (one of my Christmas gift acquisitions from a friend who noticed how obsessively I browse their website), this recipe intrigued me by its photo: muffin shaped, with a snow-white interior, golden crumbed edges, and sesame seeds speckling its top. I am always on the hunt for unusual breakfast treats. When I saw the list of ingredients, and spotted the Parmesan, I set down the book, slipped on my shoes, and headed for the grocery store. Any breakfast dish that combines a salty edge with a sweet base deserves my time.
 

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The last time I was in Los Angeles I was ten years old, gangly, with a boy haircut, visiting my mother’s filmmaker cousin in the Hollywood hills. After a few days on the West Coast, away from the loudness and cold winds of New York, I’m enthralled by the palm trees, the expansive roads, the flat houses, the beaches lining the shore and bursting with bronzed bodies even if the weather is too brisk for swimming. My father moved to LA for a new job and he’s only just found a house to rent, so there are boxes strewn in the living room, no soap in the showers. The house is sparingly furnished, leaving wide spaces for my lively brothers to stampede around on the hardwood floors.
 

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