Suzanne moved from Chicago to LA. In addition to outrageously blue skies, she's also been privy to the freshest most luscious organic produce offerings possibly anywhere!
Good fresh food is ubiquitous but in greatest abundance at the many local farmers markets that dot the city. Suzanne is lucky enough to live a few blocks from a small, but solid, market selling all organic or no-pesticide produce. We went shopping first and then went back to her kitchen to prepare a delicious and easy lunch.
The surprise of the afternoon was baked grapefruits. Unlike our room temperature array of salads, the grapefruit was baked and served hot as our light but bizarrely satisfying desert!
Suzanne's kitchen has been in continuous use for over 80 years! The appliances have come and gone, but the rest of the kitchen has proven its practicality and longevity for many a resident. Suzanne loves the pull out cutting board which she uses to extend her limited counter space. The large and generous cabinets, the great window over the double sinks, and Suzanne's sensuously curved ceiling should be an inspiration to those in the midst of overhauling their less successful kitchens.
Suzanne's Answers to the Kitchn Questionnaire
What's your cooking style?
Uncomplicated, on the speedier side, mostly healthy, mostly vegetarian.
What inspires your kitchen?
My farmer's market! I'm lucky enough to have great ones nearby that run year round -- so I have constant access to reasonably priced organic or no-spray vegetables and fruits all the time. I'm always grateful.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My giant Calphalon wok/pan — cook in it basically daily.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
So basic and so long ago, but slightly smashing a garlic clove so it can be easily peeled has saved me huge amounts of time and effort over the years.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
My vintage kitchen is adorable but also adorably tiny — not enough counter space! If it didn't have that pullout cutting board I don't know what I'd do.
I have ice cube trays that produce ice in shapes such as arrows, stars, and flowers. Dinner guests are happily surprised when they look in their glass. It's also a small homage to my grandmother — back in the day (surely purchased in the 50s), she had naked-lady ice cube trays. Where did they end up going? I really wish I had them.
Dream tool or splurge:
Some day I will get a Cuisinart food processor and a Kitchen Aid mixer. Currently not enough counter/storage space. I'd also love an ice cream maker.
What are you cooking this week?
I'm really into gratins lately as a vegetable delivery system — 3-4 eggs, some grated cheese, and sauteed onions/garlic and vegetables transform into something really great in the oven. And they hold up so well the next day! I'm also making a lot of quinoa this summer, as shown here. I prefer to make it with sweet vegetables, like corn and zucchini and peas and good onions, but I do also play around with what goes in. And you don't have to turn the oven on. Our nights here are usually on the cooler side, which allows for more summertime oven use than when I've lived elsewhere.
What cookbook has inspired you the most?
No one cookbook per se, I don't think. I love Patricia Wells's cookbooks, like Bistro and Trattoria. I've recently started using the Moosewood's Low-Fat favorites and have been surprised by how flavorful some of the recipes in there are (sweet and sour lentils a new favorite) without actually seeming like you're a giant hippie who only serves mushy stews over brown rice. (I lived in Berkeley for years, I know those stews well). Although Jacques Pepin really cooks a LOT of meat, I've learned a lot from his various books over the years. Finally, in the last few years, the New York Times has become unbelievably central to my cooking. Mark Bittman is one of the handiest people in the world — his various "100 recipes" lists become templates for my next month's cooking. And Martha Rose Shulman appears to shop at the Santa Monica farmer's market (I go to Hollywood and West Hollywood) and create recipes for produce that's peak. I have no idea how her recipes relate to the rest of the country, but they're like a little gift to me each week. I just wish she'd do something with kohlrabi, which always stumps me.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Now that I have a formal dining room and a dining table with two leaves, I've been throwing monthly dinner parties as part of community building, which can be hard to do in this town. The last two have turned out really well. For one I made a Thai fish curry — coconut milk makes everyone happy, I think, and an African groundnut stew. And for the other dinner almost everything came from the Moosewood book — vegetarian feijoada and sweet and sour lentils and a mushroom/chard polenta pie and more. Doesn't sound as bountiful and delicious as it was!
My favorite resource sits just outside my kitchen and is my dining table, purchased at a West Hollywood yard sale right after I moved here. It’s more traditional than my usual style, and the top needs to be refinished, but it used to be owned by Charlene Tilton of Dallas Fame, and supposedly before that, by Liberace, who gave it to her. How could I not have dinner parties on that!
So really, my favorite kitchen resource is yard sales, where I keep an eye out for older cookware — spoons, egg-beaters, cast-iron skillets, cake pans, casserole dishes for gratins.
Suzanne's Recipe for Baked Grapefruit
Start with some grapefruit. I prefer large, pink grapefruit but my citrus guy doesn't always have them. Also, this recipe works well to salvage grapefruit you might not enjoy eating raw.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Slice each grapefruit in half. Section each half, that is, with a thin knife, separate the interior from the membrane.
Place on a baking sheet.
Lightly drizzle each half with maple syrup (honey also possible), and then lightly dust each half with cinnamon.
Bake for 12-15 minutes.
Serve warm and enjoy!
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(Images: Jill Slater)