Your Thanksgiving dinner is cheaper this year. Here's why

Chat with California Cook columnist Russ Parsons

Times Staff Writer

2007-09-06 13:22:40.0 Administrator2: Welcome to the Food Chat! We'll get started now...welcome, and feel free to send in your questions for Russ!

2007-09-06 13:22:42.0 Russ Parsons: Hiya everybody. I just went to the farmers market yesterday and you can really tell the seasons are changing. Apples and Asian pears are out in force, and so are the last peaches and plums. You can find peppers, lots of different kinds of eggplants and also winter squash. It's a real mix of seasons. What are you cooking these days?

2007-09-06 13:22:58.0 frank_: hello

2007-09-06 13:23:00.0 frank_: everybody

2007-09-06 13:23:14.0 Nick Fortis: Good afternoon, Mr. Parsons: Just wish to report that I finally tried your June 2005 TriTip recipe and it was SUPERB!! And this w/TriTip on sale for 3bucks a pound!

2007-09-06 13:24:23.0 Russ Parsons: Oh man! $3 a pound? that's a killer meal. I do have to say that as a recipe developer, I'm usually so busy making new dishes that i rarely cook an old one. But i make that tri-tip 3 or 4 times every summer. i really do like it. and i'm glad you do too. what did you serve it with?

2007-09-06 13:24:40.0 Kyla: Hi all

2007-09-06 13:24:59.0 Russ Parsons: Hi Kyla!

2007-09-06 13:26:01.0 Kyla: What did I miss out on? I'm writing from Northern California, just moved here three weeks ago from Pasadena.

2007-09-06 13:26:15.0 Nick Fortis: Very simple: a little corn on the cob; did NOT make your excellent bean recipe, but I have a similar one--CrockPot Beans--from Stanfors Children's Hospital, that is very rich, and VERY substantial. Oh, yeah, and a glass (or two) of 2Buck Cab.

2007-09-06 13:26:51.0 Russ Parsons: Well, the first thing you missed out on was about 8 days of 100-degree temperatures. it was too danged hot to cook, even for me. just about lived on pa'amb tomaquet.

2007-09-06 13:28:02.0 Kyla: Funny -- it's not as hot here but I made that last week. I roasted the tomatoes first, just to see the difference.

2007-09-06 13:28:12.0 Russ Parsons: c'mon Nick, we're all friends here. 2 glasses? Did you grill the corn? that's so simple and it really improves the flavor: just soak the corn in the husks and throw it on the grill. it takes about 20 minutes. When you pull back the husks, the silk comes with it. you can arrange the cobs around the outside of the grill while you're cooking something else.

2007-09-06 13:28:49.0 Russ Parsons: How did you like it with roasted tomatoes? I like to spread bread slices with some fresh goat cheese and put the roasted tomatoes on top of that. do you do them in olive oil?

2007-09-06 13:30:18.0 FoodRules: that sounds fantastic, i'm gonna have to try that

2007-09-06 13:30:36.0 Kyla: We've been too busy unpacking to cook a lot but I'm returning to my goal of preserving every week. Any advice on preserving tomatoes? As for the salad, I really liked it with the roasted tomatoes (small yellow cherry tomatoes) bubt would probably mix it with fresh the next time. I was craving the caramelization (roasted with olive oil and fresh rosemary).

2007-09-06 13:30:43.0 Nick Fortis: Good call, R.P., will try that next; before I sign off: Your "watch the temp" advisce vis a vis the tritip cook time is Right On: As a retired analyst, I actually did what you suggested and tested/recorder Delta (change in) temp every three mins, starting at Minute 15; woof: a niticible =delta change in internal temp.

2007-09-06 13:31:27.0 Russ Parsons: first $3 tri-tip and now a temperature recorder. you are a man after my own heart, Nick.

2007-09-06 13:31:45.0 Nick Fortis: Thanks again for tip on orn; I'll send you the CrockPot Bean recipe sometime. Your column a pleasure; many thanks. Nick Out

2007-09-06 13:32:49.0 Kay: One of the really poignant segments in your book How to Pick a Peach is the part where you say there aren't any Art grants for small farmers. Is there anything that the community could do to celebrate them? What about the La County Fair?

2007-09-06 13:32:59.0 Russ Parsons: I roast tomatoes this way: slice them in half lengthwise (i use small romas, grapes or cherries) and arrange them in a single layer in a gratin dish. Scatter over some whole peeled garlic cloves. Salt liberally. Pour in enough olive oil to come about halfway up the sides of the tomatoes. Bake at 300 degrees for a couple of hours, until the tomatoes are shriveled and just beginning to brown on top.

2007-09-06 13:33:48.0 Russ Parsons: That's a great idea Kay. If they can sponsor pie contests, why not peach contests? Boy, I'd volunteer to judge that in a heartbeat! Until then, probably the best thing you can do is buy from your favorite farmers as often as you can.

2007-09-06 13:34:13.0 FoodRules: it WAS too hot to cook! what can i make that doesn't requrie me to turn on the oven? i can't stand to be in the kitchen right now with that thing on.

2007-09-06 13:35:04.0 Kyla: Exactly what I did! But with a long sprig of fresh rosemary. Hey did anyone see the documentary last night on PBS about people who grow huge pumpkins? (On the topic of celebrating farmers.) What a bizarre group of people.

2007-09-06 13:35:36.0 Russ Parsons: I made lots of Spanish-type appetizers. gazpacho, stale bread rubbed with garlic and then smeared with chopped tomatoes, some sliced dried sausage, that kind of stuff. it's lots better today (thank god! i'm testing lasagna recipes), but it was really brutal. and they say in these old houses that you don't need air conditioning!

2007-09-06 13:36:43.0 FoodRules: i didn't think of gazpacho, i don't know why not! that's perfect. thanks, it WAS brutal!

2007-09-06 13:36:44.0 Russ Parsons: there is a cult of huge vegetable growers--pumpkins, of course, but even cabbages! i seem to recall they used to always come from alaska. could be just my memory.

2007-09-06 13:37:20.0 Kay: I realize that and it seems like my friends who have been shopping at farmers markets for years always refer to the farmers by name. I know the managers of the farmers markets get together at least once a year either her in California and sometimes in other parts of North America. I would think that would be a suitable venue, as well as the state fairs.

2007-09-06 13:37:54.0 Kyla: i liked the guy that rubbed down this enormous 900 lb pumpkin with oil.

2007-09-06 13:38:07.0 Kyla: that was hilarious.

2007-09-06 13:38:21.0 Russ Parsons: When I make gazpacho, i like to start with some stale bread that's been soaked in water. squeeze it out and put it in the blender with the garlic. Puree, then add the tomatoes and ice cubes and etc. it's really smooth and creamy that way, but still really intensely flavored.

2007-09-06 13:38:32.0 Kay: I watched Lord of the Gourds, made by the Australian Film Commission!

2007-09-06 13:38:40.0 Russ Parsons: boy, the lines that come to mind but wouldn't be appropriate on a family website!

2007-09-06 13:38:48.0 Kyla: so what kinds fo lasagne are you working on

2007-09-06 13:39:11.0 FoodRules: haha, we're all grownups here (i think)

2007-09-06 13:39:57.0 Kyla: yeah that was it, lord of the gourds. so so funny. how about the lady who went on a crazy vendetta against mice?

2007-09-06 13:40:46.0 Russ Parsons: I'm playing with some ideas for free-form lasagnas. i used to make them more often: it's basically a sheet of pasta, some cooked filling, then another sheet of pasta (the pasta being bathed in sauce first). i had it the first time at Al Forno in Providence and loved it. It's such a great way to show off fresh pasta. Which brings up a point: why don't we make fresh pasta anymore? or is that just me?

2007-09-06 13:40:48.0 Russ Parsons: Kyla, did you see the last Wallace and Grommitt movie?

2007-09-06 13:41:24.0 FoodRules: thanks for the gazpacho tips, i never think of soup when it's hot, but of course gazpacho is the perfect thing. i've never made it though; it sounds pretty simple from how you describe it?

2007-09-06 13:41:25.0 FoodRules: then again, probably most things are simple for you to cook and would be very hard for me... :)

2007-09-06 13:41:48.0 Russ Parsons: it's almost all simple after you've done it a couple of times.

2007-09-06 13:41:55.0 Kyla: I make fresh pasta all the time! but I don't have an expeller so I only do sheets/linguini/spaghetti etc. I didn't see the W and G movie - was it good? Any thoughts on Ratatouille?

2007-09-06 13:42:18.0 FoodRules: haha, that's reassuring, thanks

2007-09-06 13:43:27.0 Russ Parsons: So many hooks Kyla! Fresh pasta through an expeller is not really fresh pasta. sheets are. The wallace and grommitt movie was terrific: about a huge rabbit that terrorized the town during its harvest festival, which featured a giant vegetable competition. And I really liked ratatouille: especially the little details

2007-09-06 13:43:42.0 Ed Sails: I am having a discussion back and forth with my bride to be and I'd love your input. I'm a stainless kind of guy, in everything from small sauce and saute pans to my 14" covered skillet. She believes that we should junk all of them for Calaphon Professional non-stick cookware. What do you like and why?

2007-09-06 13:44:56.0 Russ Parsons: I'm with you. All of my best pots and pans are all-clad (the cheap masterchef line). And then I have a couple of non-stick beaters that i use for occasionally. i've never had to replace an all-clad pan and some of them i've had more than 20 years.

2007-09-06 13:45:04.0 Kay: Hey I just read The Last Chinese Cook by Nicole Moins. You learn alot about Chinese, not to be confused with Chinese American cooking.

2007-09-06 13:45:42.0 Russ Parsons: Someone else was telling me about that book. I'll have to find it.

2007-09-06 13:45:52.0 FoodRules: i read your column about farmers' markets and you mentioned kyoto (sp?) grapes...i had never heard of them, can you describe?

2007-09-06 13:46:46.0 Ed Sails: Thanks, Russ......nice to know I can still keep my All-Clad!

2007-09-06 13:47:15.0 Russ Parsons: They're actually called Kyoho grapes, though they may well be grown near Kyoto. It's a Japanese-developed variety that is a cross between native American grapes (Concords) and European grapes. They really do have a concentrated Concord flavor, and with fewer seeds.

2007-09-06 13:47:22.0 Russ Parsons: Hey Ed, if she wins, let me know when the garage sale starts.

2007-09-06 13:47:28.0 Kay: If you haven't seen the movie Eat Drink Man Woman you must rent after or before you read the book.

2007-09-06 13:47:47.0 Kyla: I rarely see animal bios because they stress me out too much (bambi trauma) but I didn't mind Ratatouille. I thought it was interesting that in a film in which the audience was asked to care about the wellbeing of an animal, the main dish was vegan. (I'm not a vegan or a veggie but I do care about animal welfare.)

2007-09-06 13:48:20.0 Russ Parsons: The Ang Lee movie? That was a really good one. And so was the version they made in a Mexican kitchen (Tortilla soup?)

2007-09-06 13:48:57.0 Russ Parsons: And I do have to confess that I got really creeped out in some of the rat scenes. When there were hundreds of them running across the kitchen floor ... oh my god.

2007-09-06 13:49:21.0 Kay: Right on! What's cooking? is the quintessential Southern California Thanksgiving movie!

2007-09-06 13:49:36.0 Kyla: I'm curious about the free-form lasagne; do you cut the pasta into shapes and then build a structure? The rat scenes freaked me out too.

2007-09-06 13:49:48.0 Russ Parsons: I don't think I've seen that one. What's it about ? Who's in it?

2007-09-06 13:50:01.0 Ed Sails: I agree. I was amazed at the activity as the chef walked thru his kitchen, with everything from woks frying, furious chopping and all the other activity.

2007-09-06 13:50:51.0 Russ Parsons: That's exactly what you do Kyla. Roll out the sheets, cut them in squares and then put one in the bottom of a pasta plate, the cooked garnish, another pasta square. it absolutely HAS to be fresh pasta in this version because that's the point of the whole dish--that lovely texture.

2007-09-06 13:51:37.0 Kay: It takes place in the Fairfax residential area on a multiculural corner--ie. four families with different ethnic backgrounds. Culture clash meets America's favorite holiday.

2007-09-06 13:52:27.0 FoodRules: that sounds good! did anyone see Big Night? or..what other food movies are good?

2007-09-06 13:52:49.0 Russ Parsons: Sounds like my family when we lived there! three people from New Mexico moving into the heart of Jewish LA, with an old Polish lady for a babysitter and a couple of former TV actors as neighbors. I'll have to look it up.

2007-09-06 13:53:14.0 Kay: just rent it!

2007-09-06 13:53:28.0 Russ Parsons: I kind of liked Big Night, but mostly for the food preparation scenes. One of my favorite food movies is Tampopo.

2007-09-06 13:53:57.0 Kyla: I love Tampopo.

2007-09-06 13:53:58.0 FoodRules: hmm, never heard of tampopo either, have to look it up on netflix!

2007-09-06 13:54:01.0 Kyla: that is a fabulous idea, i'm going to try it. i have a question about meat. my goal is to eat much less meat but i want it to be very very good quality. lately i've been trying buffalo. any suggestions about where to mail order good, local, organic etc meat?

2007-09-06 13:55:01.0 Russ Parsons: FoodRules: are you over 18? Do you have a liberal sense of humor?

2007-09-06 13:55:05.0 Kyla: i guess it doesn't have to be mail order but i'd like to stock up from a good producer

2007-09-06 13:55:35.0 FoodRules: yes and yes

2007-09-06 13:55:37.0 FoodRules: now you've REALLY piqued my curiosity!

2007-09-06 13:55:53.0 Russ Parsons: Kyla, I don't have much experience mail-ordering meat. What I've done has been kind of the opposite of your approach--i mail order aged prime beef from Niman Ranch and good American Wagyu. I h ave seen a buffalo guy at some famers markets, but I haven't tried it yet.

2007-09-06 13:56:28.0 Kay: getting back to horing our farmers, let's start a grass roots movement. Like the How to Pick a Peach awards!

2007-09-06 13:57:25.0 Russ Parsons: Boy, I'm not going to pick them! Make 1 friend and 13 enemies. i do have my favorite farmers, but there are lots of them!

2007-09-06 13:57:50.0 Russ Parsons: Best strawberry in a supporting role?

2007-09-06 13:57:53.0 Ed Sails: I bought some buffalo steaks a few months ago at the Long Beach marina Farmer's Market. They grilled up fine, althoiugh a little dry to my taste. I couldn't really tell that much difference from a normal beef steak.

2007-09-06 13:58:29.0 Kay: not you! i was just reaching for handy title. What about the Slow food foundation?

2007-09-06 13:58:45.0 Russ Parsons: My expectation is that they would be a lot like free-range beef, which does tend to dry out very, very quickly. you really do need to cook it only until medium-rare at the most.

2007-09-06 13:59:24.0 Russ Parsons: Slow Food does have it's Ark of Taste, but that's more about the specific varieties than the farmers who grow them. interesting topics for arguments, though.

2007-09-06 13:59:37.0 Kyla: I made a slow-cooked ground buffalo sauce with tomatoes and cinnamon but it cooked for about a day before it was really tender.

2007-09-06 14:00:19.0 Russ Parsons: One thing with lean meat like that--i like to cook it over fairly low heat (even on the grill) and turn it fairly frequently so it cooks evenly and gently. That does seem to keep it moister.

2007-09-06 14:01:09.0 Ed Sails: I have to say, a friend gave me some wild boar chops a month ago and they were really excellent. I also had a wild boar roast that was delicious.

2007-09-06 14:01:24.0 Kyla: Oh wow wild boar. I'd love to taste that.

2007-09-06 14:01:33.0 Kyla: Was it super gamey?

2007-09-06 14:01:47.0 Ed Sails: Not at all.

2007-09-06 14:01:53.0 Kay: I finally roasted some antelope sausages!

2007-09-06 14:02:16.0 Kyla: antelope! wow.

2007-09-06 14:02:38.0 Kay: My best friend loves alligator tacos. Hard to get the alligator now. Used to get it at FedCo.

2007-09-06 14:02:45.0 Russ Parsons: There's lots of wild boar up in teh Central VAlley. Befriend a farmer and they'll be happy to let you hunt. I had a friend who was a hunter and he got me some antelope chops one time. it was very interesting. very lean, but the meat was almost black when it was raw and then turned paler as it cooked. flavor was really good.

2007-09-06 14:03:14.0 Ed Sails: FedCo! I remember getting the egg rolls at their hot deli when I was a kid.

2007-09-06 14:04:03.0 Kyla: I pnce had a dish in Tobago called "bush meat" and no-one could tell me what was in i'm pretty sure it was wild pig and then something like armadillo.

2007-09-06 14:04:22.0 Kyla: Curried in the Tobagonian fashion.

2007-09-06 14:04:27.0 Russ Parsons: I think bush meat is usually monkey, isnt' it?

2007-09-06 14:04:33.0 Kyla: ew.

2007-09-06 14:04:38.0 Kyla: Not thinking about it.

2007-09-06 14:05:02.0 Russ Parsons: you're probably right: it was probably armadillo. Feel better now?

2007-09-06 14:05:27.0 Kyla: Yes I realize that that is a random line to draw. lol. But monkeys are our friends!

2007-09-06 14:05:41.0 Kyla: lol

2007-09-06 14:05:45.0 Kay: I used to live in South Africa: monkey gland steak was on every menu. It wasn't until before I left that I found out it was actually beef.

2007-09-06 14:06:22.0 Russ Parsons: kyla, sounds like we've got about the same level of social crowd. i would have hoped they'd be a little more evolved by now.

2007-09-06 14:06:46.0 Kay: Biltong, which Americans call jerky is made from everything; beef, zebra etc.

2007-09-06 14:07:43.0 Russ Parsons: There's a South African cured meat guy at the south edge of Beverly Hills. On Olympic. He does really terrific sausages, and IIRC he does biltong, too. Anybody know the name?

2007-09-06 14:07:52.0 Kyla: So when I was in LA I saw a lot of marinated cheese at the market and I could never really talk myself into buying it. Has anyone bought some? It kind of seems like something you could make at home. [monkeys make better friends than some humans I know!]

2007-09-06 14:09:12.0 Russ Parsons: it's really easy to do it yourself. start with something fresh, like mozzarella or goat. Put it in a bowl and cover it with flavored olive oil (minced garlic, dried herbs, etc). Let it set for a couple of hours. Youdon't want to store this too long with teh garlic in it (risk of botulism) but a couple of h ours is really good. It's nice smeared on bread.

2007-09-06 14:09:35.0 Ed Sails: If you get a craving, there's a place in Long Beach called Springbok Bar and Grill that makes their own biltong. Yummy!

2007-09-06 14:09:51.0 Kay: Where do you buy your olive oil?

2007-09-06 14:10:00.0 Russ Parsons: Where is that Ed? I'm down in the LBC. Seems like I've driven past it.

2007-09-06 14:10:24.0 Ed Sails: Down in shoreline Village.

2007-09-06 14:10:50.0 Russ Parsons: i get my cooking oil from TJ--either the santini or the California oil. Then I usually have a couple of others: I really like Tenuta Numero Uno from Bristol Farms; and I usually have a Spanish oil, whatever Alex recommends at La ESpanola.

2007-09-06 14:11:01.0 Kyla: Have you ever made your own mozzarella? I was at a dinner party the other day where the hostess servred this amazing dish of fresh tomatoes topped with soft mozzarella curd. I think the recipe is in Sunday Dinners at Lucques.

2007-09-06 14:11:51.0 Ed Sails: A few buildings past the yard house. They make awesome fish and chips, shrimp with piri-pir-sauce and Durban Curry too

2007-09-06 14:12:02.0 pablo neruda: I've been wanting to try the Trader joes California like it?

2007-09-06 14:12:16.0 Russ Parsons: Most places that make their own mozzarella are really buying the curd and shaping it (this is not a criticism: that's the most critical step). i did a project once where i tried to make mozzarella curd using a kit. about 1 out of 4 attempts was really good. the others were not very good at all.

2007-09-06 14:12:36.0 Russ Parsons: yes, i do like it, particularly for cooking. I'm not sure it's quite up to being a condiment oil.

2007-09-06 14:12:40.0 Kay: Piri-Piri prawns--my favorite

2007-09-06 14:13:16.0 FoodRules: russ, avocados are my favorite food...i love to just eat them plain, or with a little lemon, or on sandwiches, or in salads, or guacamole (of course!)...but i feel like all my avocado eating options are getting kinda boring. any suggestions?

2007-09-06 14:14:57.0 Russ Parsons: Have you tried making an avocado soup? really nice when it's this hot out: put avocado in a blender and thin it with chicken stock. You can flavor it however you want. garlic is always good, and a little bit of herbs. Finish it with lemon juice to give it some backbone and to help delay the color change.

2007-09-06 14:14:59.0 Kay: Eat them the way the filipinos do. cut the avocado in cubes add some milk and sugar and crushed ice. Mix it up. Make like it is ice cream. Use the shell for a dish.

2007-09-06 14:16:00.0 FoodRules: no, never even thought of it! i guess i don't think about soup that much, that sounds fantastic though!

2007-09-06 14:16:02.0 FoodRules: oh, that sounds great too, kay!

2007-09-06 14:16:06.0 pablo neruda: Avocado tostadas are always a nice can also make a tomatillo salsa, and use avocados to make it creamy

2007-09-06 14:16:10.0 Russ Parsons: i've got a tree in my backyard and when the avocadoes are really good, one of my favorite appetizers is just avocado crushed onto hot toast and then seasoned with salt and LOTS of black pepper.

2007-09-06 14:17:11.0 FoodRules: they're nature's perfect food, for sure!

2007-09-06 14:17:14.0 Russ Parsons: that's a nice idea pablo. and i like the idea of avocado ice cream, too.

2007-09-06 14:17:19.0 FoodRules: i had an old roommate who spread them on toast-- like, regular toast with butter, then a layer of avo, then sprinkled sugar on the top. sounded GROSS. but was delicious!

2007-09-06 14:18:02.0 Kyla: russ do you have any advice for someone who would like to break into food writing?

2007-09-06 14:18:33.0 Kay: You can always spread them on your hair and skin--a natural conditioner!

2007-09-06 14:18:55.0 FoodRules: is there anything avocado CAN'T do??

2007-09-06 14:19:05.0 Russ Parsons: Oh boy. That's a tough one. There's no easy way. Eat a lot, cook a lot, read a lot and write a lot. and when y ou're done, always step back and ask yourself how you could have done it better.

2007-09-06 14:19:16.0 pablo neruda: Ever been to father's office? I've been trying to replicate their burger and have had trouble with the bacon compote...actually what the heck is compote?

2007-09-06 14:19:24.0 pablo neruda: it can't fly...but it can go well in salad

2007-09-06 14:20:27.0 Russ Parsons: compote is normally understood to be a cooked-down combination of sweet ingredients. i have no idea what a bacon compote would be. my guess is it's probably onions and slow-cooked onions. i'd add a little balsamic or red wine vinegar just to keep it from getting too sweet.

2007-09-06 14:21:00.0 Kay: sounds like onion marmalade

2007-09-06 14:21:06.0 Kyla: thanks for the advice! i've got to get back to my work now - have a great rest of the day. thanks for the chat.

2007-09-06 14:21:18.0 Russ Parsons: that's what i'm thinking. jeez. chefs.

2007-09-06 14:21:24.0 Ed Sails: sounds like it would be great on a Sabrett's hot dog!

2007-09-06 14:22:29.0 FoodRules: speaking of hot pink's really the best hot dog in l.a.? i always mean to go but never do, that line is SO long

2007-09-06 14:22:51.0 pablo neruda: the line is definitely worth it

2007-09-06 14:22:53.0 Russ Parsons: Well, guys, it's getting late and I've got recipes to test. Let's take time for one more question. Who's up?

2007-09-06 14:23:15.0 pablo neruda: try going at off hours...usually busiest kind of late

2007-09-06 14:23:18.0 pablo neruda: and at lunch

2007-09-06 14:23:20.0 Russ Parsons: pinks has a special place in my heart because taht's where my daughter and i used to go for saturday lunch when she was little. i'm not sure it's a great hot dog, but i am sure it's a great place.

2007-09-06 14:23:46.0 FoodRules: gotcha, more of a must-have experience than a must-have dog?

2007-09-06 14:24:06.0 pablo neruda: One last question...about how to chose skisrt steak...what makes a good cut of that kind?

2007-09-06 14:25:04.0 Russ Parsons: For me, I like skirt steak that still has some fat cap on it. a lot of times they trim it off. but it's so lean it really needs a little fat. the main thing is cooking it very quickly. same with flank steak.

2007-09-06 14:25:35.0 Russ Parsons: Hey guys, it's been fun. Hope to see you all back here again soon!

2007-09-06 14:25:52.0 Ed Sails: Thanks Russ!

2007-09-06 14:25:53.0 FoodRules: thank you russ! i'm gonna be trying soup recipes for weeks to come!

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