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Chat with California Cook columnist Russ Parsons

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2007-08-16 13:03:00.0 Administrator2: Hi folks, and welcome to the chat with Russ Parsons! Feel free to submit your questions now.

2007-08-16 13:03:06.0 Administrator2: Welcome, Russ!

2007-08-16 13:03:07.0 Russ Parsons: Hi everybody. Welcome back. It's roasting hot here in Southern California, which means great tomatoes and melons. You always have to look for a bright side. What are you cooking?

2007-08-16 13:03:41.0 Jen: i just made a caponata which really goes well with the hot socal weather

2007-08-16 13:04:40.0 Russ Parsons: Absolutely. to me, caponata is kind of a hot-weather version of ratatouille. I try to make it a little tarter than normal, and throw in some capers, basil, those kinds of flavors as well. How did you make yours?

2007-08-16 13:04:45.0 Jen: rus, do you have a favorite eggplant to use for cal-med/italian dishes?

2007-08-16 13:06:29.0 Russ Parsons: I generally use the round black ones as they tend to have a higher pulp/peel ratio. but that's certainly not to say that if i only had the long narrow Asian eggplants I wouldn't use those. As far as variety goes, I really like those Rosa Biancas, they're kind of lilac colored with lots of tufts. They're not only pretty, but they have really creamy flesh.

2007-08-16 13:06:59.0 Administrator2: You mentioned that hot weather = tomatoes...where can I get good heirloom tomatoes?

2007-08-16 13:08:12.0 Russ Parsons: i still think you need to go to farmers markets to get good tomatoes--particularly the heirlooms. It's getting better at high end supermarkets, but those tomatoes are still so fragile they take special handling. That's one of the reasons they're heirlooms today, why they went out of production in the irst place!

2007-08-16 13:08:20.0 Administrator2: Thanks!

2007-08-16 13:08:22.0 biff: what's the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?

2007-08-16 13:09:36.0 Russ Parsons: good question: in the united states, what we call yams are actually a different family of sweet potatoes. a true yam is a starchy tuber from Africa. What we call yams are sweet potato varieties that tend to be paler in color and a little drier and starchier than the others. they're great for purees as they absorb lots of butter!

2007-08-16 13:09:40.0 Ed Sails: When I lived in Ventura I used to be able to go to the Fisherman's market Saturday mornings and buy fish and shellfish off the boat. Now that I'm down here in Long Beach, I want to find something similar, especially a source for live spider crabs. Any suggestions----and no, Port's of Call is not an option.

2007-08-16 13:11:18.0 Russ Parsons: I agree with you there Ed! It's too bad what's happened down there. Actually, I live in Long Beach, too. For crabs and things, I go to 99 Ranch. Their's one in Gardena and one in Artesia, depending on whether you're an East-sider or a West-sider. For other fish, I go to Marukai and Mitsuwa in Gardena. There's also a very good seafood guy, Pete Siracusa, who sells at the Sunday farmers market in the Marina. I got some amazing yellowtail from him last week.

2007-08-16 13:11:25.0 Jen: speaking of crabs, are "soft shell" crabs generally molting Blue crabs? or are there soft-shell Dungeness crabs available too? Am i too late for fresh soft shell? I heard the peak is typically in late spring/early summer.

2007-08-16 13:12:47.0 Russ Parsons: Soft-shells are only blue crabs. Dungeness crabs do molt, but for some reason, the crabbers don't think there's much interest in "busters". Peak harvest is spring, but they are beginning to be available for longer periods because fishermen have found how to regulate water temperature in tanks to induce molting.

2007-08-16 13:12:53.0 Debb: Great article on the room temperature veggies. I have noticed that yellow beans taste ok cold but not the green ones, I guess with the possible exception of the Romano. is that a fair observation?

2007-08-16 13:13:28.0 Ed Sails: Thanks! I will try the Sunday farmer's market. I have done 99 Ranch so far but I only saw dungeness and rock, not my favorite----the huge spider crabs.

2007-08-16 13:14:14.0 Russ Parsons: You know, I'm not sure about that Debb. I often serve green beans at room temperature (it's one of my go-to dishes ... great with meat off the grill). I get them from Harry's Berries. sometimes I've done combinations of yellow and green and didn't notice much difference in flavor or texture.

2007-08-16 13:15:08.0 Russ Parsons: You're right Ed, I haven't seen Spiders either. Another place you might check--depending on how desperate you are for spider crab--is Quality Marine in Redondo Beach, at the Pier. I'm not sure that's exactly the name, but it's something like that.they've got tons of live tanks.

2007-08-16 13:15:10.0 indiana chef: any suggestions for browning bananas when i'm tired of banana bread?

2007-08-16 13:15:58.0 Russ Parsons: How about banana ice cream? Make an ice cream base, chill it, then puree it with bananas. then finish freezing. I haven't tried it, but it sure sounds good!

2007-08-16 13:16:01.0 Jen: Thanks for the info on softshells. I've got another question: I've got a pound of fresh cannelinni beans from the farmer's market. What can I do with them for a nice summer sidedish?

2007-08-16 13:17:09.0 Russ Parsons: Oh man, those shelling beans are amazing. I love them. Why not make a succotash? Cut corn off the cob, quarter some squash, shell the beans. Simmer the beans in a little water, add the zucchini and then finish wiht the corn and a chunk of butter right at the last minute. A little tarragon would be great.

2007-08-16 13:17:16.0 Administrator2: Here's a question from the e-mailbag (chat@latimes.com), Russ:

2007-08-16 13:17:19.0 Administrator2: can you suggest some dishes to make during these dog days of summer? I can NOT think of turning on my oven or stove.

2007-08-16 13:18:51.0 Russ Parsons: Does that mean you can use a grill? Seriously, my story this week is on vegetable dishes that can be made in advance and chilled. That way you get the cooking out of the way in the morning and you've got dinner when you want it at home. Otherwise, what about gazpacho? make it the real way: soak some bread in water and sqeeze it dry. Puree that with the tomatoes. It makes a soup that's nice and creamy rather than a chopped salad.

2007-08-16 13:18:58.0 biff: It seems like the Times doesn't review too many hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Why is that, and can we request more causual fare reviews? I was very surprised when S. Irene Virbila reviewed Sakura in Culver City

2007-08-16 13:20:08.0 Russ Parsons: We have a regular review of less expensive, neighborhood-type places. But I know what you mean-considering that Southern California is so rich in these kinds of places, it can seem that proportionally we get to fewer of them than the big deal places.

2007-08-16 13:20:10.0 Ed Sails: Speaking of Marukai and 99 Ranch, I've been buying "pea shoots" from them. I've basically been cooking them breiefly----30 seconds or so---in soy and water and serving them hot. Do you have any ideas of what else I can do with them, especially a summer salad?

2007-08-16 13:21:26.0 Russ Parsons: I like those pea shoots, too. You can even serve them raw. I use them as a bed for grilled or sauteed shrimp. Not long ago I steamed a whole fish Chinese-style and just before it was done I smothered it in pea shoots. They just had time to wilt, but the flavor combination was great.

2007-08-16 13:21:28.0 Debb: Oxtails...I see them on sale at the supermarket. Should I venture forth and buy the,? Doesn't look like there is much pickins on 'em!

2007-08-16 13:22:28.0 Russ Parsons: There really isn't much meat on an oxtail. that's for sure. It's one of those meats you braise forever, then pick off the bone and serve. That's the downside. The upside is that the meat is incredibly tender and flavorful after all that cooking. The leftovers are really good chopped up and added to a ravioli filling, too.

2007-08-16 13:22:31.0 Jen: Succotash sounds divine. Is it the corn that makes it a "succotash"?

2007-08-16 13:23:13.0 Russ Parsons: It's the harmonic! corn/squash/beans. The all-American trio. That's succotash.

2007-08-16 13:23:22.0 Administrator2: Another email question, Russ:

2007-08-16 13:23:24.0 Administrator2: do you give homemade foods as presents? I'm thinking along the lines of jams, spice rubs, etc. If so, any suggestions?

2007-08-16 13:24:18.0 Russ Parsons: I do. I make red wine vinegar that I give at Christmas. I used to give meyer lemon marmalade that I made from the tree in my back yard. But somehow I fell out of the habit. Maybe because I've still got a cupboard full of it!

2007-08-16 13:24:32.0 Jen: Russ, you tasted a number of Spanish wines for this week's spotlight on Priorato in the LATimes. The article said that the cheaper bottles didn't show well at all and were somewhat disappointing. I too have been underwhelmed by them, epecially as their prices have been creeping up. Why do you think that Spanish wines in the under-$20 category garner so much praise & 90+ points from Parker? And do you think that the wines in the upper price tier are worth it considering that they cost more than many Rhones & Brunello's?

2007-08-16 13:26:10.0 Debb: Can I add my 2 cents on that one. My signature gift is Tomato Chutney amde with apricots, raisins, garam masala. I give it every year. I am so tired of it, but everyone keeps requesting it.

2007-08-16 13:27:11.0 Russ Parsons: Those are tough questions, Jen. So much of it depends on what you like. There were a couple of the inexpensive Priorats that I liked, but they didn't taste particularly Priorat-like. I think that character may only come from old vines, which give few grapes, which means high prices. there was one $10 bottle in particular that would make a great table wine.

2007-08-16 13:27:45.0 Russ Parsons: That sounds good Debb, can you add me to your list? I do think that fatigue factor had somethign to do with the demise of my marmalade, too.

2007-08-16 13:28:03.0 Administrator2: One more from the mailbag:

2007-08-16 13:28:05.0 Administrator2: Are you making any attempt to buy non-produce food items that don't come from abroad? For instance, I used to always stock frozen edamame from Trader Joe's but I'm now very aware that they're made in China so I feel I must forgo. Where do you stand on this?

2007-08-16 13:29:16.0 Russ Parsons: That's one of those judgement calls everyone has to make for themselves. Personally, quality is what drives my food buying decisions, not place of origin. But still, most often that means something that has been produced here or in Mexico, depending on the season.

2007-08-16 13:29:32.0 Jen: speaking of chutneys, why are some chutneys that i purchase at Indian markets so vinegary, while others are much sweeter? Besides making your own, do you have a favorite brand or style?

2007-08-16 13:30:15.0 Russ Parsons: I am not a chutney expert by any means. Can anyone help me out here? I don't know whether there are regional differences in preferences.

2007-08-16 13:31:43.0 Jen: all my Indian friends either make their own or get handmade jars from their mothers. I will do more digging and drop you an email!

2007-08-16 13:33:34.0 Debb: This is my take on Jen's question. I have spent time in India and if there is a way to cut the cost of making something or selling it thy have figured it out. Vinegar is cheaper thatn sugar. Onr reason

2007-08-16 13:33:58.0 Russ Parsons: The cheap Priorat that I particularly liked is the 2005 Onix Classic. it was very fresh and juicy--adjectives that are not typically ascribed to Priorat.

2007-08-16 13:34:14.0 Russ Parsons: That sounds plausible Debb.

2007-08-16 13:34:24.0 Administrator2: Those New York-style pizza places I see all over town...they're lying, right? All my NYC friends claim that there's only ONE place to get real New York-style pizza, and that's New York. Is there any real, authentic New York pizza to be found in L.A.?

2007-08-16 13:34:49.0 Debb: One reason tourist get sick in India is that you don't always get what you think you are buying. a pound of sugar is not necessarily 100% sugar.

2007-08-16 13:35:01.0 Jen: thanks Debb! i love all types of chutneys. They work well as a foil to spicy flavors such a Indian, Mexican and thai.

2007-08-16 13:35:12.0 Russ Parsons: I'm not sure about that. What about Casabianca? Isn't that supposed to be NY-style? Anybody got a take on this?

2007-08-16 13:35:18.0 biff: Mulberry St in Beverly Hills makes a decent thin crust NYC pizza pie

2007-08-16 13:35:53.0 Administrator2: Thanks!

2007-08-16 13:36:40.0 Ed Sails: Russ, I just bought a new BBQ with the infrared rotisserie on it. I'm excited and yet clueless about using it-----cooking times, what I can cook besides roasts, leg or lamb and chicken. Is there a good rule of thumb for converting cooking times or are they the same as in a regular BBQ or oven?

2007-08-16 13:38:31.0 Russ Parsons: I'm afraid I'm stumped again Ed. I had moved up to propane, but after years of that, I went back to an old Weber charcoal. I do have a rotisserie attachment for that and it does make a big difference, keeping the meat slowly turning while it's cooking. It's much moister and more evenly browned. Cooking time is a little shorter than in the oven, but I'm not sure if the infrared burner would make a difference.

2007-08-16 13:38:39.0 biff: Is it just me, or do summer fruits seems to be on the decline. I remember summer peaches, plums, and nectarines to be a heck of a lot better when I was a child

2007-08-16 13:39:25.0 Russ Parsons: That's not my take at all. Where are you buying them? I've been getting absolutely killer peaches, nectarines and plums at farmers markets this summer. Seems to be a pretty big harvest, and sugars are pretty high.

2007-08-16 13:39:31.0 Jen: Russ, i need to bring along a veggie sidedish for my friend's summer tamale party. besides gazpacho, what can you suggest that would complement the spicy flavors of Mexican cuisine and that can easily be tripled or quadrupled to feed 20 or 30 ppl?

2007-08-16 13:40:52.0 Russ Parsons: I've got just the thing: slow-cook onions until they turn nice and caramelized. Add poblano strips. Add zucchini and Mexican crema and cook until teh zucchini is tender. Just before serving, chop in some cilantro. Great stuff.

2007-08-16 13:41:26.0 Administrator2: Another reader-email question for you, Russ:

2007-08-16 13:41:30.0 Administrator2: You seem like an outdoorsy kinda guy...do you have any food tips and simple menus for backpacking, if I want to try to avoid the freeze-dried route?

2007-08-16 13:41:53.0 Jen: that sounds awesome. I will copy that right now! thanks Russ!

2007-08-16 13:42:42.0 Russ Parsons: I am SO not outdoorsy. After spending my childhood in the boy scouts, my idea of camping out is staying someplace that doesn't have room service. But I sympathize: that whole pack-in/pack-out thing really cuts down on your grocery choices.

2007-08-16 13:42:52.0 biff: I've had good luck at Bristol Farms, but the "regular" supermarket (aka Ralphs), have consistently been disappointing. I miss Hughes markets..reasonable and the best produce in town!

2007-08-16 13:42:57.0 Ed Sails: That onion/poblano dish sounds delicious.

2007-08-16 13:43:57.0 Russ Parsons: I know what you mean biff. but do try ripening the fruit a little further at home. just leave it at room temperature for a day or two until the perfume comes up and the fruit starts to soften. that'll improve it about 75% right there. it still won't be as good as fruit that's hung on the tree longer, but it'll be a lot better than before.

2007-08-16 13:44:01.0 Debb: Aside from the obvious color are there significant differences btween red, yellow or white onions?

2007-08-16 13:45:31.0 Russ Parsons: In general, I find the white and red onions tend to be sweeter and not as "acidic" as the yellow onions. I generally use them for raw onions. the yellow onions actually contain more sugar, but their high "acidity" makes them seem not as sweet. But because those sulfuric compounds burn off during cooking, the yellow onions are better for that.

2007-08-16 13:45:39.0 Jen: Russ, since you mentioned you use a Weber charcoal grill. Have you ever tried the Binchotan charcoal available at Marukai or Mitsuwa? It's japanese white charcoal i think. Some chefs rave about it.

2007-08-16 13:47:03.0 Russ Parsons: I haven't used the Binchotan. Have you? I use that Cowboy brand hardwood charcoal from TJ. I've been very happy with it, in a neutral kind of way -- nothing wrong with it but I don't knwo that it's distinctively good, either. I did pick up a bag of hardwood from another store and was amazed when I opened it and found what looked like construction scraps--lathing and stuff like that. little pieces of wood that burned out in about 5 minutes.

2007-08-16 13:47:07.0 biff: What exactly is "sushi" grade fish...is this just a marketing ploy?

2007-08-16 13:48:29.0 Russ Parsons: that's a two-part question. Ideally, sushi-grade fish is fish that has been caught, treated and stored in such a way to best preserve the flavor and color (this is really only important with tuna, which browns very quickly if not handled right). Is it used as a marketing ploy ... well, sure. But that doesn't mean it's only a ploy.

2007-08-16 13:48:46.0 Administrator2: From the mailbag:

2007-08-16 13:48:49.0 Administrator2: I know you don't consider yourself much of a baker, but I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on why a cupcake I bought Saturday at Joan's on 3rd was dense and dry. It tore apart w/great difficulty. Is that due to overbeating the batter?

2007-08-16 13:49:43.0 Russ Parsons: That sure sounds like the culprit to me. Overbeating a batter creates more and more gluten strands, which are tough and seem dry in the mouth.

2007-08-16 13:49:47.0 kim: Hi Russ: I have two quick questions: 1) and 2Do you have any restaurant recommendations for really excellent al dente pasta? I just moved back to LA from the East Coast and have not yet found a place that does great tasting homeadNorthern Italian style pasta that is not drowned in sauce.

2007-08-16 13:51:43.0 Russ Parsons: Any good Italian place these days should know that the sauce on a pasta is just that--sauce, not the dish itself. I particularly like the pastas at La Terza and Osteria Angelini, Vincenti, Valentino, Mozza, Angeli Caffe.

2007-08-16 13:51:46.0 kim: and 2) is there a farm-fresh delivery service you'd recommend for here in LA? (the type where you get a mixed bag of seasonal produce from a local farm)

2007-08-16 13:53:52.0 Russ Parsons: For some reason, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture ... the official name for what you're talking about) haven't caught on in Southern California--certainly not like they have up north. Farmers down here say its because the area is so spread out, but the Bay Area (from San Jose/Santa Cruz up to the wine country) is too, so that doesn't seem right. It's probably one of those things that the first person who does it right will be wildly successful and everyone else will pile on. There are a few CSAs operating, but they tend to be very spotty. Anyone out there subscribe to one?

2007-08-16 13:53:58.0 Jen: Russ, is it true that only ocean-fish can be eaten raw as sushi or crudo? And that salmon is actually flash frozen before use as sashimi?

2007-08-16 13:54:54.0 Russ Parsons: I'm sure there is probably an exception, but that's my understanding. Fresh water fish are prone to flukes and other parasites. That's the reason salmon are flash-frozen, becuase they are anadromous, meaning they live in both salt and fresh water.

2007-08-16 13:54:58.0 Debb: Quirky or what? that article on the future of recipes yesterday i in the paper. how is that going to affect our future menus?

2007-08-16 13:55:31.0 Russ Parsons: Do you really think it will? I thought it was a fun read, but had about as much to do with cooking as Google's translation service has to do with literature.

2007-08-16 13:56:53.0 Debb: Just wondering have you ever done Dining in the Dark?

2007-08-16 13:57:18.0 Russ Parsons: Uhm, I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but I like the sound of it!

2007-08-16 13:57:49.0 biff: Why is it that Americans are so tolerant of processed foods? I know we are a busy society here, but there are plenty of other countries that would no put up with chemical foods

2007-08-16 13:58:47.0 Debb: some resaurant in LA offers it. It has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning a couple of times

2007-08-16 13:58:52.0 Russ Parsons: Is that true biff? Can you give me an example of one? I'll tell you: every Italian grandmother I know adds a "dado" of bouillion cube to almost everything they make. And you can't get more processed than that.

2007-08-16 13:59:04.0 Russ Parsons: can you describe it Debb?

2007-08-16 13:59:45.0 Jen: I've heard of that dining in the dark concept. Arent' the waitstaff visually impaired too?

2007-08-16 14:00:24.0 Russ Parsons: I've certainly had waiters who were multiply impaired,butvisually wasn't one of them!

2007-08-16 14:01:06.0 Debb: It is a set menu, unknown to you. All the waiters are blind. there are no lights. I guess you compare notes and try to figure out what you are eating. It is a Bill Geist kinda place/kinda story!

2007-08-16 14:01:50.0 ramsay: Hi all.

2007-08-16 14:01:50.0 Russ Parsons: It sounds like an interesting experience. Kind of tasting things fresh without any visual cues to rely on whether you like something or not.

2007-08-16 14:02:06.0 Russ Parsons: Is that you Gordon?

2007-08-16 14:02:15.0 ramsay: Russ, I had a quick question for you.

2007-08-16 14:02:16.0 ramsay: I wish!

2007-08-16 14:02:40.0 Russ Parsons: Don't you mean "I ****** wish!"?

2007-08-16 14:02:51.0 ramsay: haha - you nailed it!

2007-08-16 14:02:53.0 ramsay: Lately I've been experimenting with glazes when cooking albacore

2007-08-16 14:03:23.0 ramsay: I typically used a standard teriyaki recipe, but recently have been trying to make it with alternative sugars

2007-08-16 14:03:42.0 ramsay: instead of granulated white, for example, I tried brown sugar, sugar in the raw

2007-08-16 14:03:51.0 ramsay: I was just curious if you had any tips / tricks?

2007-08-16 14:03:56.0 ramsay: or favorites

2007-08-16 14:04:49.0 Russ Parsons: Sounds like an interesting experiment. When I do that kind of grill, I usually rely on the mirin for most of the sweetness and add just enough sugar to "round out" the flavor. what have you found?

2007-08-16 14:05:25.0 ramsay: well, I've found that the consistency and the propensity to burn is reduced when I use sugar in the raw

2007-08-16 14:06:00.0 ramsay: and when I cook with brown sugar, a slightly sweeter flavor seems to overtake the soy sauce - not quite teriyaki, but quite tasty

2007-08-16 14:06:19.0 ramsay: it's well complimented with say, a pineapple salsa

2007-08-16 14:06:49.0 Russ Parsons: That's really interesting. i'd guess the reduced burning might have something to do with the presence of the molasses--but that would be true of brown sugar, too.

2007-08-16 14:07:27.0 biff: For example the classic Amercian diner - canned soup, pot pies, mac and cheese, chef salads with processed meats...You wouldn't find half the amount of processed meals in another country

2007-08-16 14:07:28.0 ramsay: I think that my main cause for the burn was the cookware. I often forget to lower temperatures when I switch from steel to anodized aluminum.

2007-08-16 14:08:50.0 Russ Parsons: There are a lot of convenience foods, but i really do think the rest of the world is certainly catching up to us. And all of those dishes you cite have very honorable homemade versions, if you care to make them.

2007-08-16 14:08:59.0 ramsay: which leads to my next question - any recommendations for good cookware? I was considering the All Clad LTD, but am open to other suggestions.

2007-08-16 14:09:40.0 Administrator2: Ed and Jen-- we'll get to your questions in just a minute, I promise!

2007-08-16 14:09:58.0 Russ Parsons: All of my best pans are all-clad chef series (the cheapest ones, with the brushed aluminum exterior). These are just great. I do understand that they have switched manufacturers in the last couple of years and the newer ones are lighter and may not work as well.

2007-08-16 14:10:02.0 Ed Sails: I am going to try making Cornish game hens for the first time this weekend. Can I do them with butter and herbs de provence pushed under the skin, or is there a better way to do them? Also, I do have some truffle oil----can I use that? I've heard truffle oil loses the flavor if it's cooked---what do you think?

2007-08-16 14:11:27.0 Russ Parsons: That sounds like a great way to cook them Ed. Just be sure not to overcook them, which is easy to do because they're so small. When the knee joint begins to twist, you're there. I'm not a huge fan of truffle oil, though I don't mind it as much as some others. I do find that it loses all flavor when it's cooked. If you have some, add it in very, very small amounts. It's like aftershave.

2007-08-16 14:11:32.0 ramsay: Russ, thanks for all your great tips. Bon Apetit!

2007-08-16 14:11:37.0 Jen: Russ, do you ever do blind tastings with wines? how do you fare in guessing region, varietal, vintage or producer? I know S. Irene has a very discerned palate, but i wanted to know what your background with wine was.

2007-08-16 14:13:41.0 Russ Parsons: I am a semi-reformed wine geek. I really love wine, but my days of extensive tastings are pretty much past. It's really a fascinating hobby. Problem is, it's just gotten so danged expensive. I find I'm much happier with a really well made Beaujolais or Barbera. I can usually do OK. Once I blind-tasted a bottle on the nose, but that was more because I knew what kind of wine the host was liable to serve (he was a lawyer, it was the 1985 Caymus "Special Select"; I remember it to this day).

2007-08-16 14:13:56.0 kim: Are you a fan of truffle shavings? If so, any favorite uses? Thanks again and I love your farmers markets reports!

2007-08-16 14:15:13.0 Russ Parsons: Thanks Kim. I'm afraid I'm not a big fan of truffle shavings. They're mainly good for color. My theory (which I admit I learned from Thomas Keller) is that if you're going to use a luxury ingredient, use a lot of it and of very good quality, even if that means you only use it once a year. It's better to get the real thing in one hit than to get mediocre stuff every day.

2007-08-16 14:15:24.0 biff: Can you recommend a good deli in L.A? I'm been to Canters and Jerry's and have found them to be quite pedestrian

2007-08-16 14:16:39.0 Russ Parsons: It depends on what you like. I'm actually a fan of Canters. I like their matzo ball soup. and years ago I was a judge for a couple of years at the Fairfax Avenue Chopped Liver Cookoff, and they won every year. For pastrami, I have never had anything anywhere that equalled Langers. Get it hand-cut, so it's in thick pieces. Really amazing meat.

2007-08-16 14:18:08.0 Russ Parsons: It's been great fun, but we've got time for just a couple more questions.

2007-08-16 14:18:29.0 Ed Sails: Speaking of delis, I saw the other day that Katella Deli closed. Any good places in the Long Beach/South Bay/OC area so I don't have to drive all the way to Brent's in Northridge or Langer's?

2007-08-16 14:19:05.0 Russ Parsons: KATELLA DELI CLOSED!? that's the only place I know in the area. I was just there a month ago and it was packed. What happened?

2007-08-16 14:19:53.0 Administrator2: How about one more email question while they wrack their brains?:

2007-08-16 14:19:57.0 Administrator2: have you ever used a french coffee press? i've had one for ages and have yet to pull it out of its box. i understand it makes terrific coffee.

2007-08-16 14:20:26.0 Ed Sails: I drove by on Sunday----it's now something like the Original Cake and Pie Company. I know the owner died----I assume the family must have sold out.

2007-08-16 14:21:16.0 Russ Parsons: I have. And in my incredibly geeky way, I went a couple of weeks making coffee side-by-side in a filter press, a drip, and a vacuum pot. Filter press coffee has a lot of body and a more "hearty" flavor. Make sure you grind the coffee fairly coarse. It's good stuff.

2007-08-16 14:21:36.0 Russ Parsons: I'm in mourning Ed. Thanks for ruining my day.

2007-08-16 14:21:37.0 biff: okay Russ - top 3 burger joints in LA

2007-08-16 14:22:12.0 Ed Sails: Sorry Russ.....imagine my feeling when I was craving a knish Sunday morning!

2007-08-16 14:22:35.0 Russ Parsons: A lot of it is just on reputation. My favorite burger is at Bake 'n' Broil in Long Beach. I've also had the burger at Father's Office in Santa Monica and it was terrific. And, of course, Cassells. Haven't been there in years, though.

2007-08-16 14:22:38.0 Jen: speaking of coffe, have you tried the Clover machine coffee available at Groundworks coffee?

2007-08-16 14:22:54.0 Russ Parsons: I keep intending to come by, but haven't yet. is it great?

2007-08-16 14:23:10.0 biff: anyone think Pinkberry will go the way of Krispy Kreme?

2007-08-16 14:23:49.0 Russ Parsons: my hand is up.

2007-08-16 14:23:51.0 Jen: I find it tastes like a really good vacuum pot coffee! but i'm not a coffe geek and don't really like espresso. lol

2007-08-16 14:24:26.0 Russ Parsons: well, if you know vacuum pots, you're geeky enough!

2007-08-16 14:24:56.0 kim: Have you ever gone to one of the dinners at a farm done by "Outstanding in the Field"?

2007-08-16 14:25:34.0 Russ Parsons: No I haven't, but I'm really supportive of anything anyone does to get more attention to the people who grow the ingredients we cooks rely on.

2007-08-16 14:25:37.0 biff: Jen- you should try making coffee with a mokka pot (which can be purchased at Cost Plus). Delish coffee!

2007-08-16 14:26:28.0 biff: oh..any churrascaria restaurants that are reasonable in the LA area?

2007-08-16 14:27:20.0 Russ Parsons: You've got me there. Thing is: I really don't go out to eat that often. I really prefer cooking for myself, my family and my friends. that way I can wear shorts when i'm eating.

2007-08-16 14:28:39.0 Jen: my old roommmate from italy swore by his Bialetti mokka pot, but i always found it to be a tad percolated. I guess i'm just too old-fashioned american when it comes to coffee.

2007-08-16 14:29:52.0 biff: Currently, what are your five favorite ingredients?

2007-08-16 14:30:52.0 Russ Parsons: Do you mean currently, like right now? tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, olive oil, red wine vinegar, pimenton, chorizo, basil, dried pasta ... wait, i think i've already gone over.

2007-08-16 14:30:58.0 Jen: Russ, one last question. Where do you buy your beans for coffee at home?

2007-08-16 14:31:37.0 Russ Parsons: I get my beans mail-order from a place in North Hollywood called "Supreme Bean". And no, not just because I like the name (though I did buy my espresso maker from Whole Latte Love).

2007-08-16 14:31:38.0 Russ Parsons: Hey everybody, thanks a lot! It was a great session (in my best Bob Newhart voice). And I'll see you next week, same time, same place.

2007-08-16 14:31:40.0 Administrator2: A transcript of this chat will be available later today at http://www.latimes.com/features/food. And if you're so inclined, you can submit your questions for Russ in advance by emailing chat@latimes.com.

2007-08-16 14:32:02.0 biff: wait..come back...i dont want to go back to work!

2007-08-16 14:32:02.0 Jen: Thanks Russ

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