I picked up a hefty heirloom tomato at the farmer's market last weekend. It looked like as though it was about to burst open. As a light lunch, I sliced it open and topped it with a dollop of homemade saffron aïoli, thinly shaved red onion, Point Reyes blue cheese crumbles, and a smattering of parsley and chives from the garden. Delicious with a strip of crispy bacon and half of a seven-minute egg sprinkled with piment d'Espelette and Maldon sea salt!
This past Fourth of July weekend, we were invited onto our friends' boat in Marina del Rey. The plan was to ride to Paradise Cove in Malibu, dock there for two nights and catch the fireworks show. I was tasked with making dinner the first night. With a tiny kitchen to work in–not to mention the constant rocking of the boat itself–I took inspiration from "quick n' easy" communal-style dishes, like dips and salads from a quirky Israeli restaurant in Silver Lake called Mh Zh. My menu was, as follows:
Mixed bitter lettuces
with finely grated sharp cheddar, dukkah and toasted pine nuts
Pea and burrata salad
with mint, dill and lemon zest
Spicy lamb ragù over hummus
with harissa and labne
served with grilled flatbread
The easiest dish to pull together, by far, was the pea and burrata salad. It's "semi-homemade", if you will–you're essentially putting frozen peas that have been thawed and dressed over a ball of burrata. It's a fabulous summer dish to serve as an appetizer with friends... Whether or not you're on a boat! For my version, please find the recipe below!
1-2 balls of burrata
5 ounces of frozen organic peas
Very good olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper
A few sprigs of fresh mint leaves
A few sprigs of fresh dill
1. Prep the frozen peas according to package directions and set aside in a mixing bowl.
2. Chop the mint and dill and add to the peas. Toss. Then, zest the lemon over the pea and herb mixture. Toss again.
4. Pour about a tablespoon or so of olive oil into the bowl with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and toss the mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Adjust proportions to your liking.
5. Gently place the burrata into your serving bowl. Slice a cross over the top of each ball and open to reveal the creamy interiors. Spoon the pea salad on top and finish with a generous lashing of olive oil before serving.
As you can imagine, it doesn't take much to fill up a mini-fridge. If your mini-fridge is an add-on to a real full-sized fridge, well, you can afford to be a little more indulgent. My mom, for example, kept one in her bedroom stocked with Moscato wine; a former boss of mine had one designated exclusively for chocolate. I, however, have to be strategic about what I'm stocking it with because that little ice-box is my only option for food storage. I'm more or less limited to the necessities–breakfast items, beverages, snacks and condiments–with some space leftover for a container of this or that from the prepared foods market.
Mine currently contains:
- 2 bottles of Smartwater
- A bottle of Perrier
- A can of Diet Coke
- A few containers of Fage 0% Greek yogurt
- A container with 4 hard-boiled eggs
- A grilled turkey burger patty
- Crackers (Jilz Gluten Free or Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crisps)
- A cheese end
- A jar of Castelvetrano olives
- A jar of raw honey (for tea)
- A jar of champagne mustard
- A bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce (purchased because of its slenderness)
- A jar of anchovy-wrapped capers
Mustard and hot sauce can only do so much when it comes to jazzing things up. In that regard, my condiment department was sorely lacking. Ideally, I'd like to keep fresh aïoli on-hand because it's so versatile–Cape Seafood and Provisions sells fresh batches of theirs–but it has such a short shelf-life. Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is too blah. Then, along came Sir Kensington's Chipotle Mayonnaise!
First of all, I love Sir Kensington's packaging. The squarish glass jar with a black lid gives it a luxurious look while the whimsically illustrated label adds a delightful touch. It adds that joyful "pop" in the mini-fridge, if you know what I mean. Secondly, the brand uses only the finest eggs, oils and seasonings in their products which comes through in the flavor. Their Chipotle Mayonnaise is simply bomb-dot-com, for lack of a better word. Smoky and garlicky with a bright lemony zest... Sometimes that's just what you need to dress a grilled turkey burger patty.
I originally came across this cheese at Vintage Grocers when we were staying in Malibu. I had never seen it before but was drawn to its bright orange-tinged rind (colored with annatto), squat square shape and soft, oozy quality. I love creamy pungent cheeses and Brebirousse d'Argental does not disappoint–this French sheep's milk cheese is buttery and ripe with a tang. It spreads beautifully on crackers! I've started seeing it around the cheese sections in different gourmet markets. It's usually quite pricey at $15 per pound, but I found this SGD-sized piece at in the bowl of cheese ends at Joan's On Third and bought it because it was mini-fridge-friendly.
A friend of mine graciously offered me to stay in her guesthouse as I transition back to civilization, which is, for now, L.A. She has a chic mid-century home situated on a hilltop in Laurel Canyon, a neighborhood steeped in a long-standing creative spirit. I love it here. It's far enough from the hubbub to feel at peace, but only a ten-minute drive away from Sunset Boulevard for when you want the hubbub.
The guesthouse has a view of the swimming pool on one side and the expanse toward DTLA on the other. It contains nothing more than an entryway, a full bathroom and a large bedroom. Instead of air conditioning, there are floor-to-ceiling louver windows which catch the cool breeze coming through the canyon and make the white curtains billow in the afternoon. It's quintessentially L.A. and it's more than I could ever ask for. I lovingly nicknamed it "The Clubhouse".
The Clubhouse has a mini-fridge, a microwave and an electric tea kettle. I can't tell you how luxurious it feels not having to cook. At the ranch, I had to cook morning, noon and night. Here, I can pick up bits and bobs of things from the prepared foods counter, like a few slices of roast beef or a small filet of poached salmon, plus a side vegetable dish or two. I just nibble at them when I'm hungry, but more likely I am having dinner over at a friend's house or catching up with a friend at happy hour. After spending two and a half years in the middle of nowhere, I have a whole new level of appreciation for modern conveniences. (I've already tried the Postmates app a few times too–what a godsend!)
Last night, at a party at Neue House, I told my friend Alisa about how I'm back in the SGD lifestyle, full swing, with my kitchenless set-up:
Me: My mini-fridge is basically a cube.
Alisa: It's not one of those that are three-feet tall with a freezer?
Alisa: What do you have in there?
Me: A box of Raincoast Crisps, a little jar of honey, a little jar of champagne mustard, tartar sauce, hot sauce–
Alisa: So mostly condiments and sauces.
Me: Uh-huh. Like bachelors do. A bottle of kombucha, a bottle of sparkling water, a can of Diet Coke... A cheese end–I choose from the bowl of cheese ends because they're more mini-fridge-friendly... Oh, and a jar of anchovy-wrapped capers.
Alisa: That's funny that a jar of anchovies is something you had to have in your mini-fridge.
Huh. It is, isn't it.