Thursday, October 31, 2013

Black Magic Sauce

A year ago I found recipe for Magic Sauce and it has become a staple in our kitchen ever since. Magic sauce is magic because it is simple, natural, and delicious, and beautiful. This fall, I thought I'd create a variation to honor the season, the waning light of October, and make a batch with a dark twist using black garlic. 

Black garlic is made by fermenting whole heads of garlic in sea water for months. The end result is a head full of sticky, savory, dense, deepest-dark cloves. They have a texture somewhere between a gummy bear and thick guava paste. The spicy bite we associate with fresh garlic is entirely replaced by the rich, thick, truffle-like, heady, garlic richness. Like kimchi, black garlic is prized for its flavor and healthfulness, and is often eaten on its own as an accompanying appetizer or alongside the main dish without much adornment. You'll be able to find black garlic on-line in bulk, at specialty food stores, or thankfully, for a terrific price, at Trader Joe's. Like any quality ingredient, It doesn't need any, but I love the immense depth it lends to other recipes.

This sauce doesn't taste like a party, it tastes like a ritual. The flavors are complex but harmonious, earthy and transcendent. It doesn't have the bright, showgirl zest of a chimichurri. This tastes a little brambly, a little ancient, a little wild.

The magic lies in this sauce's power to make almost anything taste better. Flank steak, grilled chicken, baked potatoes and roasted vegetables all benefit from a healthy drizzle. It's a fantastic marinade too. Add it to a simple green salad with a splash of aged balsamic vinegar and some grated pecorino. Dress up a mound of hummus or babaganouj. Eggs and bacon won't know what hit 'em. You want magic? One spoonful turns broth into soup. Tonight, before trick-or-treating, we will enjoy it with toasted baguette slices, basque cheese, fresh olives, chewy roasted tomatoes and hot sopressata salame.

Black Magic Sauce

Recipe adapted from Heidi Swanson. The original can be found at

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large clove of crushed garlic
2 cloves of black garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh oregano 
1 crushed bay leaf
2 pinches of chili flake (or much more)
1 pinch of sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 squeeze of lemon

Gently heat oil on stove top until thoroughly warm.

Add black garlic to a medium-sized glass bowl and mash into a paste. 

Add remaining dry ingredients and fresh herbs to glass bowl. 

Pour in heated oil. There might be slight sizzling but not crackling or spitting.

Mix together until well incorporated. 

Add lemon juice.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. The mixture might turn cloudy but will immediately clear up when brought of room temperature.

This sauce is delicious from the get-go but will improve even more after sitting for a day or two. All of the herbs will settle so remember to dig deep for that slurry of goodness at the bottom of the jar. The sauce is gorgeous too. The paprika makes the oil glow fiery red and the suspended herbs and black garlic bits make everything look so sumptuous.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Cinema - "Picasso"

A catchy little pop ditty that popped up at just the right time. Music makes all-nighters easy.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Utah Forever

"Who do I have to kill to move here?"

- David

We always have the same reaction once we pull into Springdale: awe, joy and immense gratitude. There's a lot to be thankful for in Utah. Zion National Park is highly underrated as far as national parks go, and it has been our pleasure to experience the park in different seasons without crazy crowds. It's really only a matter of time before people catch on so every trip has been precious.

This time Minh and I went with our friend David, my brother and a few younger friends we both have in common. A beautiful mix of earnest, peaceful, adventurous people. 

Before coming to the park we entered the drawing for permits to hike the Subway river trail and won seven spots. We set out early the first morning, traipsing through a scrub juniper forest, laughing and praying for good weather. Monsoon season in Southern Utah brings flash floods to Zion's regularly and we were told to abandon the hike if storm clouds started to form before 10. After a steep descent down a red rock cliff, we began scrambling over boulders and wading in the river, up and down, this way and that, over and under. 

The purest bliss can be found at each bend. 

Beautiful pockets of earth reveal tiny beaches, trickling brooks, grand staircases of stone, and graceful curves carved out by crystal clear water.

The strenuousness of the hike was truly overshadowed by the beauty revealed to us at every turn. Slowly we made out way up slippery algae coated slopes until we found ourselves at a laughing mouth of a cavern. Rushing water filled gorgeous pools. We giggled and laughed, splashing in jacuzzi-sized nooks, cooling down hot hips and knees, soothing backs and brows.

Truly God's playground. Laughter and literal healing. 

Sleeping at the Driftwood Lodge is such a pleasure. The property's gone through major renovation and for us, it's a luxury. The best parts about the Lodge are actually outside. They have grazing horses to feed and nuzzle, right next to a small field as well as a nice little piece of river access deep enough to take a dip in. After hiking part of the Narrows on day two, we had a big meal at Oscars and celebrated David's birthday with slices of Brambleberry pie. We ate it on the bank of the Virgin River by moonlight.

I was close to bailing on the last hike of the week and I'm glad I decided to go. The Subway and Narrows hikes had left my ankles really tired and unreliable, but going to Angel's Landing is an important place to visit. I made it a little past Scout's Landing but decided to stop and enjoy the view and save the summit for next time. 

Can't wait to go back.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Linda Vista + Afton

Tucked away in that ritzy 'hood west of the Rosebowl was this cool little abode that belonged to even cooler people. The husband was a military man and his wife was a prolific ceramist. This was the only picture I took because the rest of the time I was in animal mode.

Besides delicious textiles, legit military surplus galore, and super cool "this and thats", there were over 500 pieces of handmade pottery for sale, going at a dollar an inch.

Folks, it was unreal. The house was this cool kinda sorta split level but the flow was really nice, or would have been without 50 other people. Right by the pool was the neatest quirky gas fired kiln with a really cool extra tall chimney design. While I was checking out I overheard bids going for the thing. I hope it wound up with someone cool. Then a few steps up from that was her ceramics studio and my brother and I were in heaven. I snagged a bunch of her small works. I love tiny vessels. Then there was more to be had in their garage where I found some great French paper sheets, and where Minh found some great duffel a and side packs in terrific condition. All from 1944... What...

So unbelievable.

This was the line AFTER sixty of us already gone in.

Sean had some major scores, and one of them is this picture of him looking like a two year old with a beard.

This. Is the haul, minus the duffels and bags. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

California Cactus Center

Up Rosemead Boulevard way lies a sleepy little place called the California Cactus Center. It right on the street but once youre through the gate, time seems to wind down.

The traffic gets drowned out by gurgling fountains, and all you hear are soft steps, chit chat, and trowels dipping into buckets of colored ground cover chips and pebbles. 

Rows and rows of every kind of succulent, big and small, spindly and plump, native but strange, line the back half of the property . Little aliens. The front half has a wild array of more mature specimens, including a 12-foot saguaro. Pots and planters of all shapes colors and sizes can be bought, including a pretty nice array of vintage pots. 

I'm into replanting mine and making my own arrangements, but for people who want to keep their hands clean, or maybe need a stunning "I'm sorry" gift, they have potted arrangements, hanging succulent wreaths, and custom designs at the ready. They're great for inspiring different color and texture combos.

The pots are pretty inspiring too. They have a nice selection of conventionally made and handmade offerings, as well as some mexican tin and talavera doodads. 

I noticed this time around they've really stepped up their air plant game. I've been toying with getting one, but now I think I'm finally convinced. They displayed one tucked into a folded ceramic wall hanging that I'd like to replicate.

Once a month I treat myself to a small flat of plants. This time I got mostly blue and purple hued plants, with my favorite being the butterfly plant. Tons of tiny dual petals form on the edges of the leaves, so it looks like it is covered in tiny pink butterflies. 

This was my most expensive choice, but the prices of most everything else, especially the "pup" plants, are reasonable, between 2 and 5 bucks.

You can see why I limit this to once a month.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mission Carwash Mural: start to finish

The husband and wife duo behind Mission Carwash (and Lube N' Tune, and Tia Gladys Cantina) have been supporting a revival of the historical Mission Play. To build some excitement about this year's centennial festivities, and cheer up a ho-hum hallway, they commissioned me to paint a mural. Other than requesting lots of color and joy, The parameters were pretty loose. That's a good thing.

I used the mission playhouse as a background, and added doves and folklorico dancers for a little life. Adding flowers makes injecting color really easy.

Here's the process start to finish.

Freehanding the initial drawing is doable, but getting the perspective right would have been a big pain since its in a hallway. I took my outline to Staples and got an engineering print made, blowing up the original drawing from legal size to the intended 4' x 12' life size scale.

To transfer the image, I sprayed the back with this awesome awesome transfer spray made by Bernini from Blick. It leaves really precise, erasable marks without any smudging or mess. Way better than any premade transfer paper I've ever used. Time to trace.

Trace trace trace. You can barely see it but its there.

Next comes filling in the sky. It's quick and makes you feel like you've done a lot.

How about some foliage?

O yeah.

Time to start the playhouse, and ignore an increasing sense of dread and foreboding.

Paint everything that's not a playhouse!

Get in there, tiger!

Now it's time for a distraction. How about more plants!

Dark dark dark makes other colors bright bright bright.

Forget it I'm going to paint the tiles. Bah the playhouse has jaundice!

Getting better. There's a peek at my photoshopped source material. The more initial planning, the better the result.

OMG so much detail. I'm tired.

People won't even notice most if this but if its not there it'll suck and no one will know why. But I will. Flower distraction time.

And lettering. I like lettering :)

Hey this is starting to look pretty good. o crap. I added people. WHY did I add people.

Ignore them. Paint the fountain.

Ok get in there.

Teal tops were a good choice.

Go sit down.

Funny thing is, you never run out of details. Their heads are so small!

I hadnt decided on a border beforehand but i liked the lapis colored tile in the restroom, so i recreated it around the edge. it looks pretty convincing in pictures.

A few more details.

Clear coat. And done.